Read Clint Eastwood’s Harrowing Account Of The 1951 Plane Crash That Almost Killed Him

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“I thought I might die. But then I thought, ‘Other people have made it through these things before’. I kept my eyes on the lights on shore and kept swimming.” Clint Eastwood

Before the ruggedly handsome actor began chewing tobacco on film, while manipulating warring factions into battle as he ran off with the loot, Clint Eastwood was a bad ass in real life. In 1951, Eastwood served as a lifeguard at Fort Ord in California. The budding actor hopped onto a Douglas AD-1 military aircraft that was making a journey from Seattle to Sacramento, but the plane could only hold two: some reports say that Eastwood jumped into the cargo hold.

In Clint Eastwood: A Biography, Eastwood recounted the frightening ordeal that led to his plane crashing a few miles off the coast of Point Reyes. After some kind of electric malfunction, the plane had to be guided by its pilot, Anderson, into the sea. As soon as Eastwood and Anderson hit the cold October waters, they immediately began swimming away from the sinking plane so not to get sucked down with it. Their goal was to stay focused on the shoreline and keep swimming towards it. Eastwood promised Anderson he would get him to safety.

And then it started getting dark, and I lost him. I didn’t know whether he was alive or where the hell he was. And I wasn’t about to start yelling, because it wastes a lot of energy. I went through jellyfish schools and all kinds of things, and they became fluorescent at night. It was like some science-fiction deal. By this time, you know, your mind is–talking about hallucinating…I kind of worked my way into that–just partly luck, because everywhere the water was very rough. And I got into this spot and had a really rough time climbing out.

Struggling with hallucinations that Anderson was still behind him — he wasn’t — Eastwood finally made it to shore after a three-mile swim, and hopped a fence to enter and RCA building to look for help. When the coast guard came, Anderson and Eastwood met up again, neither seriously injured.

Eastwood. Championship swimmer. Hero. Wild West badass. Alltogether doesn’t give two f*cks about mortality.