I spoke with my dad last night and he told me the following story:
Axtel was a P-61 pilot and a former taxicab driver from Brooklyn. He sported a huge handlebar moustache. On daylight missions the pilots frequently flew with an observer in the radar operator position; radar not being of any use on strafing missions. Dad flew with Axtel and other pilots on occasion, although not on the mission described here.
In the middle of a high-speed, full-power strafing run, Axtel's plane took a medium caliber flak hit on the right wing, inboard of the engine and aft of the fuel cell within the wing. The explosion removed the right flap, part of the wing sheet metal, and destroyed all the right side engine and flight controls, along with the hydraulic lines and wiring running through that section of wing. The engine continued running at full power. The pilot could not shut it off and couldn't have feathered the prop in any event. He drove the crippled bird back to base, shut down the other engine in order to slow down and to minimize damage to that engine on landing. With the hydraulics shot out on the right side, putting the gear down was not possible. The only operating controls were the rudders. Axtel managed a belly landing, straight down the runway. The right engine chewed the its prop to stubs before it quit and the other prop suffered damage to a couple of blades. Dad says the plane was salvaged; meaning it was stripped for parts.
I wonder if Axtel went back to driving a cab after the war?
This is going to be part of a family history I'm working on, so I apologize if some of the information is kind of basic. Are these tough birds, or what?