Clint Eastwood Recalls Feeling “Stark Terror” During Plane Crash

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In 1951, Clint Eastwood survived a plane crash that had him battling “a thick gray fog and a strong surf” in a fight for his life. The legendary actor has recounted the story, including bone-chilling details about the night he almost died.

Clint Eastwood was drafted by the U.S. Army in March 1951, about a year into the Korean War. Stationed in Fort Ord, California, the then-unknown Eastwood served for two years, working as a bouncer and a swim instructor during his service.

Six months later, while returning from Seattle after a tryst with a girlfriend and a visit to his parents, the plane Eastwood was traveling on would make a crash landing near Point Reyes off the coast of San Francisco.

Clint Eastwood and pilot Lt. Francis Coleman Anderson were aboard a US Navy AD-1Q Skyraider headed for Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, when the plane began to experience mechanical issues. Eventually the aircraft ran out of gas, forcing Anderson to crash land in the Pacific Ocean.

An issue of the Independent Journal published within a few days of the crash detailed the horrifying event.

‘”Two servicemen, who battled a thick gray fog and a strong surf for almost an hour last night following a plane landing in the ocean near the Marin shore, are returning to their service units today uninjured. Army Pvt. Clinton Eastwood, who wandered into the RCA radio station at Point Reyes after struggling in the ocean, told radio operators he and the pilot were forced to land their AD bomber in the ocean and left on life rafts,” the report read. “The pilot, Naval Lt. F.C. Anderson, landed his life raft on the shore at Kehoe Ranch near Pierce Point. He is stationed at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento.”

Eastwood spoke about the event during a 2015 interview with Loyola Marymount University, saying that back then soldiers wearing a uniform could fly for free.

“On the way back, they had one plane, a Douglas AD. Sort of a torpedo bomber of the World War II vintage, and I thought I’d hitch on that. Everything went wrong. Radios went out. Oxygen ran out. And finally, we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went into the ocean. So we went swimming. It was late October, November. Very cold water,” Eastwood recalled, adding that he’s glad he didn’t know then what he knows now.

“Found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died.”

The “Gran Torino” actor also admitted to feeling “stark terror” when the plane crashed. He added that he and the pilot traveled in their life rafts together until getting separated near the rocky Pacific coast. Eastwood was eventually thrown from the raft and was forced to swim to safety.

Earl Foster, a radio operator who was on duty at a station the night of the crash, shared that Eastwood told him that he nearly drowned in the undertow, being sucked back out to sea each time he neared the shore.

After making it safety to shore, Eastwood was taken to the Coast Guard Life Boat Station at Point Reyes where he was reunited with Anderson and the pair received medical attention.


Despite the life-threatening crash and measured he took to get to safety, Clint Eastwood says that he never thought that he would die. Instead, he kept reminding himself that other people had survived similar situations and worse.

Hear Clint Eastwood recall his near-death experience in the video below.