When fighter planes and ships were downed by their enemies in World War II, it didn’t always mean the death of every person aboard. Sometimes, a few people survived but found themselves stranded behind enemy lines. With no one searching for them, they were forced to find their way back home on their own.
Some of the people who made these journeys went through unbelievable experiences—and they made it back alive.
10. Five Americans On A Lifeboat Sailed Through A Typhoon
Calvin Graef, a prisoner of war aboard a Japanese vessel, was cooking rice when he heard his captors in a panic. US ships had found them, but this wasn’t the rescue he’d dreamed of. The US ships had fired torpedoes and destroyed the Japanese ship with Graef and other prisoners of war still trapped on board.
Graef survived by clinging to pieces of the wreckage. Soon, four American POWs who’d escaped picked him up on a lifeboat and helped him aboard. The men made a rudder for their boat by breaking up parts inside. Then they sailed west toward China.
Their trip took them through a typhoon and over 480 kilometers (300 mi) of ocean. In the end, Chinese fishing boats took them to shore, fed them, clothed them, and sent them home.