Minnesotan David Everson’s Vietnam War Survivor Story

David Everson got zapped on March 10, 1967. He fired a missile at his target then two seconds later heard a crack on the left side of his Thunderchief F-105. The shell didn’t explode, but it ripped into the main structural spur of his left wing, nearly flaying it from the fuselage. The plane started gyrating, and Everson had a long argument with himself about whether to eject over enemy territory, where he risked breaking himself in the fall — or worse — becoming a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, or to go down in a blaze.

“I knew that if I bailed out, I might get hurt real bad,” says Everson. He thought he might just make it easy on himself and go down with his bird, a comparatively quick and easy death. Everson decided that was the thing to do. But then his mind quieted to a hush, and the seconds seemed to slow and crystallize, like a lazily developing Polaroid. In his mind’s eye, he saw the silhouette of a woman flanked by two children. He didn’t know who this backlit woman was or what she wanted with him, but he felt that, even as his plane wobbled perilously in the sky, he wasn’t supposed to die that day.

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