Distinguished Flying Cross Distinguished Service Order
Douglas Bader, Squadron Leader (Gr. Britain)
In 1931 while performing aerobatics,
Douglas Bader flew a Gloster Gladiator biplane into the ground.
Both of his legs had to be amputated, and he was retired from the
When the war began in 1939, however, England needed all the pilots it could get, and Bader persuaded the RAF to take him back, artificial legs and all. The RAF may have regretted its decision somewhat, because although Bader proved that he could fly a Spitfire as well as anyone, he was completely insubordinate, disobeying orders that he considered stupid. His leadership as a squadron leader was hard to question, however; during the Battle of Britain, his squadron downed 63 enemy planes, while losing only three of their own. Bader himself bagged 22.
At one point, Bader thought that it would be a good idea to fill his metal legs with Ping-Pong balls, so that if he were shot down over the English Channel, he could float until rescued. Unfortunately, his idea nearly caused him to bail out of his Spitfire the first time he flew with loaded legs -- when his squadron reached a certain altitude, the balls began to pop, making Bader believe that his aircraft was taking hits.
When a mid-air collision forced him down over France and made captive, Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland treated him to dinner at a German airfield as a fellow aviator. Galland even gave Bader a personal tour of one of his Bf.109s, but he reluctantly (and wisely) refused Bader's enthusiastic request to take it up in the air for a loop around the field. Once in a POW camp, Bader frustrated his captors by continually escaping. They even tried making him turn over his legs to them at night, whereupon they would lock them up and return them only in the morning.
Chalk up another one for Baders Bus Co.