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CHINA
BURMA
AND
INDIA

FROM THE BACK SEAT



Memories from the China-Burma-India Theater
Flying the "Valley" and the "Hump"

Douglas F. Devaux

Flight Radio Operator
United States Army Air Force











PREFACE

    This story is an autobiography of some of my overseas experiences as a soldier in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. It has been written for my children and grandchildren. My grandmother once told me that my great grandfather, John D. Van Home, was involved in the Civil War between the States and had a price on his head. He was an executive for Western Union. I know no more than that. She also told me that two of our ancestors, Private John McNeal, a member of the Pennsylvania Line and Private William Sargent, Sr., served for the United States in the Revolutionary War against England. William Sargent, a Maryland Militiaman, lost his life in defense of his principles. We know that this is true for brief records corroborate their service. The details of their time; however, are lost forever. Possibly had it been written down, we would feel their lives rather than just hear their names, with only a simple postscript showing that they served. It is my purpose to leave more than just a paragraph. We did not choose the time or the place for war. The challenges were great for our country and its people, but a persevering nation gathered its individual citizens together in a great fight for survival. There was determination, there was a goal, and there was always the morality of our position that we had to win because we were right. Each little niche that each one of us filled helped the overall struggle to ultimate victory. The experience was not all bad. There were lots of times when we had fun and laughter. There was often a deep sadness, too. There were good times and bad, the same as we have good and bad times in our everyday lives. When the mountains of life seem insurmountable, there is always a way over the top. I claim no heroics. I went where I was sent and tried to do the best in what I was asked to do, as did the rest of my generation as it faced the aggressive would be conquerors of the world. My wife Charlotte shared this time in history and she shared, as a soldier's wife, the last four months of my time in the Air Force.




DEDICATION

  This story is dedicated to the pilots of the CBI airplanes on which I was in the back seat as flight radio operator. They were part of the plane as they battled the elements in the worst flying conditions in the world. I am grateful to them for their skill in achieving our destinations. Pilots and crew in the Air Transport Command seldom got to know each other well, but we knew that we could count on one another.

 
Captains
Black
Burrows, G.H.
Daniels
Drum*
Evans
Hooff
Jones*
Kreps, O. F.
McClain
Points*
Rhoads*
Riddle
Smith
White*
Wilson, C. W.
Wilson*
Lieutenants
Alexander
Andrews
Andrus
Bahler*
Barnes*
Baughan
Black, E. B.
Brown, U. L.
Buck*
Burke*
Carter*
Connally
Cutler
DeJulio
Delellis
Dobbins*
 
Fockes, D. L.
Folmar
Friday
Jackson
Jameson
Harmon*
Hill
Hodder
Hopkins*
Howell, J. C.
Hutchinson*
Jensen
Jordan, J.
Lambert, E.L.
LeClere
Longtin*
 
Liberman
Madigan
Marrs*
Miller
Mitchell
Norlin, E.L.
Peplinski, J. P.
Phelps*
Pike*
Priest, I. A.
Quina, M. A.
Ramseur*
Rarick
Rushlau
Schumacher, E.*
Schwartzoff*
 
Sheets, H.L.
Sindsey
Simon
Smith
Squiers*
Taylor
Underwood, W. B.
Wilson*
Wollgast, A.*
Young
 
* Jorhat pilots


A special thank you to Ed Schumacher and Art Wollgast. You flew us safely across the Hump 24 times plus one aborted mission.



TO THE LAND OF MYSTERY

    It is back in time to the evening of January 27, 1944. I had just returned about 10:00 p.m. to the Edgewater Hotel in Miami, Florida, that was used to billet Army Air Force soldiers. I had wangled a final pass to visit Dr. and Mrs. Quintner in Miami Beach for a last night in the United States. Instead of building barracks, the government had commandeered hotels to bunk soldiers. The Edgewater was a Port of Embarkation for somewhere. I had called the Quintners, who lived in Miami Beach as I had known Ruth Quintner, formerly Ruth Glosser, from my hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Ruth was a sister of the Glosser twins, Naomi and Doris classmates and friends from Westmont High School. I had called her earlier and she invited me for some cake and ice cream. We talked and then I said goodbye. I was twenty years old. My flight bag was packed and I was ready to go - destination - who knows? Where were we going? Simply put, to fight a war.

    Next day, with a group of other enlisted men, we stood reveille outside the hotel, loaded on a truck and were driven to Morrison Field Miami, where we were boarded on a C-47 with bucket seats, scooped out down each side of the plane's cabin. Destination we found out was to be New Delhi, India. Where was that? I thought of cobras and scorpions and Mowgli, the wolf boy. This was only the third airplane I had been on. The other two were a 15 minute ride in a Ford TriMotor over Johnstown Pennsylvania, for a $1.00 fare and a one hour flight over South Dakota in the back seat of a small single engine L-5 to test out recently learned skills as a radio operator. I had enlisted in the Army Air Corps on December 11,1942. After Basic Training, I was given a choice of occupational training that the Air Force offered and I selected to study as a Radio Operator Mechanic and was sent to the Army Air Forces Technical School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I graduated from the Sioux Falls school on August 8, 1943. I was then sent to an advanced program at the Air Transport Command Transition Training School operated by the Pan American Airways System in Miami, Florida. I completed a prescribed course for Flight Radio Operators, graduating November 20, 1943. After that, I was sent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a replacement depot, for assignment and from there to Nashville, Tennessee, for army infantry-type, in-field maneuvers. All of this training did not include any actual in-flight instruction. It appeared that I was being sent to be either a Radio Mechanic or a Control Tower operator since. I failed to pass the eyesight physical for flight training. My vision without glasses was about 20/100, but very correctable with glasses to 20/15.

    We took off from Miami and headed south, stopping at Borenquen Field in Puerto Rico to refuel, stretch, and then on the way to another destination. We landed at Atkinson Field in British Guyana, my first experience with the tropics; mosquito netting and hot, hot, hot. Fried plantains and a squeamish stomach were the overnight menu. Oh yes, a movie was shown, Lady Takes a Chance with John Wayne and Jean Arthur, not bad.

    Take off in the morning and a look out the windows at nothing but solid green tree tops in the jungle below the whole way to Belem and Natal, Brazil, for landings and a two-day stay in Natal waiting for a ride to the next unknown destination. Every one had to buy mosquito boots to belong to the air force "clan" and I believe that Germany must have unloaded every kind of watch imaginable on the economy of Brazil for everywhere there were watches for sale. My watch lasted about five years and the Natal boots about sixteen months. Oh yes, there was a movie to be seen. Lady Takes a Chance. Oh well, we'll see it again, not bad.

    Another takeoff and we were over the Atlantic for a hop across the ocean to another unknown destination. A long flight that finally ended with a landing in the Ascension Islands, from jungle to volcanic ashes. Black paths, bordered by two by four curbing, were the only level ground on the island. All around were black volcanic rocks and black ashes. It looked as if it had all been burned, which it had been by an ancient volcanic eruption. Not a blade of green around the airfield, but on looking up to the tops of the mountains, you could see habitation. The green began halfway up.

    I remember thinking, "How could you spend your life here?"

    After mess, there was a movie. Of course, it was Lady Takes a Chance. After three times, I knew that cattleman John Wayne would eat the lamb chops because Jean Arthur cooked them for him.

    Morning and in the air again for the rest of the flight across the Atlantic and a landing in Accra, Africa. I thought British Guyana was hot. Nothing could compare to this because we had to sit in the hot plane with the door shut until finally a soldier came from the outside and sprayed the planeís cabin with insect killer. We were immediately given plague shots while still in the hot airplane. The heat, the spray, and the shot created a sickening dizzy fever feeling in everyone. It hung on through the next day. We were billeted in a barracks. Movie tonight was the announcement. Oh boy, what is it called? Why itís John Wayne and Jean Arthur in Lady Takes a Chance. Finally it dawned on me that we were carrying the movie with us. After that one, I could recite the dialog verbatim.

    Dennis K. Nahwe, c/o J. Lustyce Cook was the name and theme of the barracks porter at Accra. Dennis was the name of the porter. We stayed in Accra for two days, waiting for another plane. We were leap frogging our way to India. Dennis, the barracks porter, approached me. He said he wanted to get to the United States and would I help him get there after the war. He gave me his address, c/o of J. Lustyce Cook. I put it in my wallet and carried it all the time I was in the service and years thereafter. I never did anything about it, but my conscience would not let me throw his note away. I wonder how many addresses he gave out and if he ever made it to America.

    We took off again, this time landing in Khartoum. Here were two tall African herders strolling by the runway, with alkali dust on their bodies and limited clothing. This was my first close up view of a completely different culture. They were herders and carried long staffs to control their cattle. I have no idea what they were doing on the edge of the runway, but the memory of this is as keen as the day I saw them.

    Another take off and this segment went over Ethiopia, landing in Aden, Yemen, where we heard that we were not welcome beyond the city. Rumor had it that anyone who crashed in the desert might be captured by the desert Arabs who were said to be most fierce and should we be Christian, we would be subjected to horrible torture and eventual death. The local soldiers really poured it on to us greenhorns about a fighter pilot who crashed in the desert and how mutilated he was when they recovered his body. We doubted it - but it could be true - rural Americans with their first taste of real impending danger. Donít get caught here. It was not too soon for our pilot to turn on the engines and flee this place. Aden was also terribly hot and the mess hall smelled of insect spray. Happy we were, to get on our way.

    The last leg was to Karachi, India, landing there February 6, in daylight, at what appeared to be a commercial airport with a large control tower and operations center with broad paved apron parking areas and runways. Nothing warlike here except the camouflage on the airplanes parked about.

    After being assigned to a stucco barracks, we were told that this was as far as we go until further orders were received. I expected to be sent to work either as a radio mechanic, which I did not want, or a control tower operator, which I fully expected to be my assignment. The control tower seemed the most logical. Next morning after reveille and breakfast in the mess hall, I found that I was assigned to the Karachi AAF Base Unit.



CBI THEATER - JANUARY 1944  CBI Theater - CLICK TO ENLARGE
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FLIGHT TRAINING

    The second day in Karachi, after reveille and breakfast, we were lined up outside the barracks by a sergeant. An officer came over, put us at ease and began talking,

    "You have all been trained to operate aircraft radios. We need radio operators now. Is any one here afraid to fly?" There was silence in the ranks. What was he talking about?

    "Good," he said, "you will be placed on flight status. You will check the rosier in your barracks each day for further information. You will be notified by tile Charge of Quarters whenever you're assigned a flight and you will report to the operations officer at the control tower immediately. You will be assigned on your first flight with an experienced radioman who will show you what to do. Sergeant, take them to the parachute rigging room."

    The parachute building was roomy with large flat table areas for parachute folding. A sergeant explained that parachutes were to be handled carefully and we were instructed on how to put on a chute and how to pull the ripcord. That was it, the sum total of my actual flight training. Total Army training in the air, one hour in an L5, plus an hour of parachute instruction. We did, however, visit a DC-3 to familiarize ourselves with the location, in a real airplane, of the equipment that we had learned to operate at the Sioux Falls and Pan American Radio Schools. I was going to bypass the eyesight requirement physical and be a flight radio operator after all. In looking around, I realized that although we all appeared to be in excellent physical condition, each of us had a minor defect, such as eyeglasses or other insignificant defects; one soldier had a finger missing from his right hand. The Air Force needed crewmembers and we were there, fully capable of stepping in. The war needed flight operators. This was instant flight training. Wonderful, I felt apprehensive but good.

    Karachi was an entry base into India. It was far from the fighting front in Burma, China, and Northern India. I was assigned to an experienced radioman for my first real flight with Lieutenant Spencer, in a C-47, to Agra in Central India on February 21, 1944. That was the check out ride. I was instructed how to use the frequencies and what to do physically with the doors, steps, and chocks, and you're on your own from there. I was my own boss on the second flight and I also got baptized to Indian weather with Lieutenant Hodder as pilot. We got bounced around in a severe storm between New Delhi and Karachi. I had finally reached New Delhi on that flight.

    Don't crewmembers have wings? Other soldiers with Air Force patches were wearing wings. I asked one of them, "Where did you get your wings?" He told me they have them in the Post Exchange. I thought, yes, I ought to have wings appropriate to my new and unexpected status.' Next day, I was in the local Karachi PX . It had an elaborate display of jewelry for sale. In one of the display cases was an array of silver wings that were there for purchase by pilots and crewmembers. Next to the wings was an assortment of real silver ID bracelets with inlaid decorations of the distinctive CBI shoulder patch with a blank space for engraving your name and army serial number. The clerk behind the counter had, been through this before. I bought silver crewmember wings.

    "All flyers should buy one of these bracelets," the solicitous Indian clerk said in clipped British English, "and you will need CBI shoulder patches for your shirts."

    I also bought two ID bracelets. One of the bracelets I had engraved with my name and Army serial number, and of course I bought enough CBI patches to adorn the shoulder of my uniform shirts. I was now a full-fledged member of whatever was to be. I put on the bracelet and pinned on the wings. I wore the bracelet for years and still do on special occasions.

    India is a country of bells. In Karachi city we were amazed at the warning jangling of bells on the camels that were dashing down the streets pulling carts with their splayfeet quietly plopping on the ground. Karachi had a population that was mostly Muslim and everything would stop at certain times of the day while prayer rugs were rolled out and the devout would face Mecca and pray to their God.

    After four flights out of Karachi, several of us received orders to transfer to Dum Dum, a British Airdrome, outside of Calcutta. I met Sergeant Melvin Weber, another radioman, there. Dum Dum was a tent situation. Melvin and I were assigned the same tent. Tents with wooden floors, rope beds that always sagged and had to be tightened, it seemed daily, and mosquito netting that you had to examine carefully with your cigarette lighter flame, after you got inside, to make sure that none of the critters got in with you. Burn them up was the thing to do, but don't burn the netting. We were issued a 45-caliber pistol with a shoulder holster and a full clip of bullets in case of a crash and the need to survive by living off the land. Dum Dum moved us closer to the front. Dum Dum was a shared base with the British. There had been Japanese bombers over Calcutta earlier in the war.

    A young Indian boy, about 12 years old, turned up next morning and asked for a job taking care of the tent: sweep it, put things in order, shine our shoes, and general cleaning. He said he would be our bearer. "How much?" we asked. "Sahibs, a rupee a week, each" he replied. A rupee was 35 cents. Melvin and I hired him. He called himself Abdul Kali and we christened him "Kelly." He would show up daily and kept everything in good order since we were away on flights a great deal of the time. He probably took care of about eight soldiers and the accumulated rupees were quite a windfall in the Indian economy. Kelly was a joy to have around.

    Soon after arriving at Dum Dum, two of us, Tom Sherwin and I decided that we wanted to see Calcutta. We got leave and climbed on a truck with other soldiers and were driven several miles into the heart of the city and let off at Chowringhee Street. The first impression was the mass of humanity. The women were mostly dressed in white cotton saris and the men dressed in trousers over bloused with white shirts and white overseas type caps on their heads. Large numbers of men wore nothing but a dhoti, a cotton breech cloth. These men were otherwise naked except that most of them had white turbans circling their heads. The odor was the first thing to assail our senses. Sewage was in the streets, garbage was here and there, and a tide of humanity moved over the sidewalks and streets. We could see doorways filled with people sleeping on the pavement. A lone cow sniffed at the garbage, totally at home, moving along unmolested. Beggars pleaded for Baksheesh, the local word for alms. A woman rushed up with a naked infant on her hip. She was crying loudly, "No mommy, no poppy, Baksheesh." The baby had a shoestring tied about its waist, which I learned later was because British law required all people wear clothing and the shoestring complied with the letter of the law. The obviously better dressed women moving through the crowds had color in their garments and painted dots on their foreheads between their eyes. This officially introduced us to the caste system. As you were born into a segment of this society, you remained in that state the rest of your life.

    Another part of this swirling humanity was mobile. Huge men were driving open air taxis, honking horns, and shouting for fares. These drivers all wore turbans and khaki shirts with epaulettes and long khaki pants. They looked much alike in size and build. They were Sikhs and they or their ancestors came from the province of Punjab. They looked like someone with whom you would not want to tangle. Throughout this bedlam in the streets were numerous open aired, two-wheeled horse carts called gharrys in which the passengers rode facing backwards while the driver whipped his horse through the congested traffic. We rode with one of these and he whipped his horse shouting and calling it "Chicken Shit Lieutenant" for our benefit. He probably went up the ranks as befitted his passenger's position according to the stripes or bars on the serviceman's uniform. Mixed with this seeming melee of traffic were rickshaws drawn by skinny men who were holding the shafts and running at a good pace carrying one or two people to some destination. A few automobiles independently made their way through the crowd and this was also my first look at double-decker buses packed with people hanging everywhere. It was a kaleidoscope of transportation. I will always marvel at the stamina of the poor soul whose livelihood pinned him into the short life of a coulee pulling a rickshaw. They could run miles on their skinny legs but the pittance they received at the end of the run was hardly adequate to feed them enough energy to continue. I'm sure their life was short and horrible. Mixed in this bedlam were servicemen of all kinds, soldiers and sailors, but mostly soldiers drawn to the city for recreation and leave. The Japanese army was in Burma and an Allied offensive was on to retake Northern Burma and a key Burmese city, Myitkyina. The mobilization of the Allies brought together Americans, English, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Chinese, and tough native Indian soldiers, Ghurkas and Sikhs; hundreds and hundreds of service personnel taking a brief respite from the close by war. I bought a star sapphire stickpin at a jewelry shop. The star is now the principal stone in a ring that my wife. Charlotte, wears every day.

    Calcutta was a large city, caught in the middle of a terrible war. Britain governed India, at that time. Calcutta was just recovering from a horrible famine that was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Hindus. The Japanese had captured Burma and Southeast Asia and the staple food of rice was no longer available for import for the masses of people living in this huge city. The Hindu religion did not permit the eating of flesh and without the rice from Southeast Asia, hundreds died daily of starvation. Although meat and meat products were available from Australia, the vegetarian people chose to starve rather than violate their religious principles. Bodies were picked up in the morning and driven to the burning ghats (funeral pyres) to be cremated.

    The native Indian peoples were of many religions but the majorities were either Hindu or Moslem. They were not very compatible and their differences were always present as we made our way through the teeming streets of humanity. There were opposing factions everywhere. At the same time that World War II engulfed Calcutta with the threat of the Japanese army moving into the Province of Bengal, there was much internal agitation by both the Hindu and Moslem groups to unseat the British government. The Indian fight for freedom and an independent country was going on at the same time as this influx of soldiers and troops of all kinds were trying to defend its borders from the Japanese invaders. It was a strange situation. In the midst of all of this, Mahatma Ghandi, popular leader of the Hindu and also the majority of the Indian people, was waging a war of passive resistance to the British government. He was seeking independence from British rule. He would be arrested for his resistance and placed in jail. He would then go on a hunger strike and as he became weaker, his followers would become more violent, until the British would be forced to release him. He owned nothing except his clothing and spectacles but was the most revered man in all India. As we were able to visit Calcutta every couple of weeks whenever we had no flights, we got to know and respect the people living there. We would sometimes just go to the Bazaar and shop. We would sometimes, go to the USO to mix and talk with other Americans.

    In looking beyond the bars and tattoo parlors, we found a friendly people for the most part. I was invited a couple of times to private homes, both in Calcutta and Agra. We were treated with great courtesy. India, with its desires for independence, did what it could to aid the Allied war effort. It was almost too much for a very impoverished country to support. I found later the same determination to be true in the attitudes and acceptance of we Americans by the Chinese peoples.

Home At Dum Dum
Mel Weber and Doug
"Kelly"



INDIA BY AIR

    On March 17, 1944, Lieutenant Alexander piloted my first flight out of Dum Dum, Calcutta. It was to Chabua, an airdrome mostly dedicated to Hump flights to China, that was in the upper right comer of India, north of Burma, along the Brahmaputra River. During 1942, the Japanese had captured the main cities and towns and controlled nearly all of Burma and they had pushed to the borders of India during 1943. They had nearly bridged the mountains of North Burma, the Naga Hills, but had been stopped by the heavy monsoon storms the previous summer.

    British, American, and Chinese troops were trained and assembled in India during 1943 and began an offensive to retake Northern Burma in December of 1943. This offensive by the Allies got into full swing through the ensuing months of 1944. Heavy fighting was going on in Northern and Western Burma as the Allied forces attacked through the jungle. Supplies for the war effort, both in Burma and in China, were moving up the Brahmaputra River Valley by rail, water, and air to the advanced staging areas in Northern Burma, Ledo, Chabua, Jorhat, Tezpur, Mohanbari, and Sookerating. The ATC carried its share. It also lent people to direct ground troop support in food dropping missions and evacuation flights of wounded soldiers.

    I found out what the Valley was. We would fly our cargoes of supplies, equipment, or personnel from Calcutta north to Lalmanirhat and turn almost ninety degrees east, up the Brahmaputra River valley to various Hump take off points. We carried troops, drums of gasoline, lashed down airplane engines, food, equipment, bombs, ammunition, coca cola, beer, bandages, medical supplies, and everything imaginable. Seldom were crew chiefs (mechanics) on the planes. They maintained the aircraft but didn't generally fly as part of the crew, so I learned to become the in-flight crew chief as well as the radio operator. I put the chocks around the wheels; I put the blocks in the elevators to keep them stable whenever the plane was on the ground. I learned where the gas went in, I learned how to crank the engine whenever a starter solenoid was broken. I learned that the landing gear of a C-47 made a keel in rough weather, but slowed the plane to stalling just when you needed power. My job often, as we flew inside wild thunderstorms that made the plane into a bucking bronco, was to leave the radio and man the wheel retraction lever. It was centered between the pilots and, while hanging on for dear life, run the wheels up or down as the pilot would demand. I had to check out a radio set called an IFF set (Identification Friend or Foe) and install it in the tail section before each flight and return it when the mission was completed. This set issued a constant signal that identified us as a friendly airplane whenever we were in flight so that we would not be shot at by our own troops. It was our duty to take it with us at each stop should we leave the plane. The IFF set went with us until it was turned back. American radio contact in the CBI was mostly by voice rather than telegraphy code. We had been trained to do Morse code at Sioux Falls and Pan American Airways Radio School but we were not using it in the Valley or the entire CBI to contact the various towers for clearance and landing instructions. The British, however, almost exclusively used Morse code. One day we were approaching Visagapatam, a British base on India's East Coast, from the Bay of Bengal. Burma, under Japanese control, was behind us. We had to use the Morse code in checking through this area of India. As we approached the Indian coast, I was on watch and requested clearance using the telegraph key. I had not used the Morse for several months. The flight was in bad weather with poor visibility. It was a bumpy one and this made the key very difficult to use. The bumps would shake my hand and the dots and dashes would blur together. The British ground station was not able to read our call numbers. Apparently our IFF set was not identifying us or they did not have the equipment to read its message. They kept repeating and requesting for clearance identification. Finally after the third try, they gave me a message that I have not forgotten I.D. or else we start shooting. Fortunately, the bumping stopped and I carefully keyed out our plane number and who we were. We were given clearance and proceeded on up the Indian coast to Calcutta.

    I was fortunate to have been schooled with Pan American Airways in Miami for special training in high-speed code and direction finding. How valuable this proved later. The radio direction finder on top of every transport and part of every base control tower was life saving as we soon found out as the monsoon season set in earnest. My first Mayday (distress call) came as we got lost in a severe thunderstorm on March 30, 1944, on a flight piloted by Lieutenant Lambert. The ground stations read our radio transmission and told us the direction in degrees from where they were. We then plotted our position, 50 miles from the Dum Dum Airfield. Special schooling had been given to us by Pan American Airways in Miami after our Sioux Falls training was completed. A portion of this was direction finding with a radio compass attached to the top of a station wagon that was driven around Miami as we sat inside and plotted where we were.

    Up and down the Valley and occasionally over the Naga Hills if the weather was clear, through the months of March and April until May 28, 1944. About this time, an order was received that took away the parachutes for all ATC personnel in the CBI not assigned to flying the Hump Route. We were aghast. We had learned to fear and respect the horrible weather and the dangers that went with it. The comfort of a parachute, just in case was our happiness and security blanket. We learned to live without them. After all, we were told, passengers on commercial airlines didn't need them. Commercial airliners, however, would never have taken off under the weather circumstances that were always lurking. The monsoons were in full sway but even in thick weather, we flew anyway. It was hang on and fly by the seat of your pants sometimes. Ask God for help, pray like crazy and how do these '47's hold together?

    Why did "they" take away the chutes? Rumor had it that too many were bailing out whenever they could have saved the airplane by sticking with it. Regardless of the motive, parachutes were a thing of the past. On May 28, I was assigned to fly with Captain Black. Our load was three aircraft engines securely lashed to the floor. Captain Black had me "borrow" three parachutes from an empty North African Wing plane that was parked next to us in the line. They still carried parachutes. He said all indications were that the weather in the Valley was going to be terrible; however, the operations officer claimed it would be fine since he had just flown down from Lalmanirhat, and we were to take off. He didn't say that his flight had been six hours earlier. Captain Black said he was not going into what he knew was going to be a rough flight without "chutes." His intuition was right. We took off from Dum Dum and headed north straight into the teeth of a huge storm. We were bounced and jounced and I am sure that we were flipped over. After we had righted, I checked the cabin and the engines were still held fast by their moorings. The altimeter raced up and down. The rain beat us unmercifully, lightning was everywhere. I don't recall the name of the co-pilot who flew on this trip. Black flew the plane and the co-pilot manned the throttles. This was one of the worst experiences that I had during the war. The plane would be pointed nose up on full throttle and the downdrafts (which we now know as shears) would be driving it down. It would be pointed nose down on fall power and the updrafts would be forcing the plane up. Black called me up front with the pilots. He shouted above the din of the storm that the co-pilot couldn't leave the throttles and that I was to man the wheels lever, "When I say wheels down push it down, when I say wheels up, pull it up". I spent at least an hour holding on; on my knees, just back and between the pilots with the landing gear lever in my hand waiting for the order to "wheels up" as we were going to stall, and "wheels down" whenever we were facing too much turbulence. The order came often that night. It was a real fight for survival.

    I could see the plane's instrument panel from my squatted position and I watched the spinning altimeter. One time it raced down past 100 feet and I braced myself for an expected impact. It was still going down when an updraft finally caught us and the altimeter reversed as we started back up. I thanked God for that. We saw some building lights from windows beside us as we were driven down in that wind shear. These lights had to have been in the center of Calcutta. We must have broken out of this downdraft over the large park in the center of the city and thereby missed the tall buildings. We probably flew over Chowringhee Street about 50 feet off the ground but we never saw it. A few feet right or left we would have hit the buildings. An updraft drove the plane up again. Radio contact was absolutely zero. Radio had nothing on it but static during the worst of the storm. We were totally lost. I was shouting Mayday into the radio much of the time whenever I was not manning the wheel lever. After two hours of this fight for survival and attempting to fly north, the storm finally began to diminish; the radio cleared of the static and the Mayday went through. We were surprised to find that we were south of Dum Dum. We had thought that we had flown north the whole time. We flew north and were almost immediately over an airfield. Where were we? Clear radio contact again. It was Dum Dum, its runways covered with water. We didn't recognize it. We had flown generally north for two hours and wound up south of our take off point. Captain Black and his co-pilot had done a magnificent job in keeping that C-47 alive. The C-47 did a magnificent job of hanging together. We "splash" landed, taxied to a stop, and just collapsed mentally and physically. The follow-me jeep took us back to operations. An argument ensued between Captain Black and the evening operations officer about the proximity of that storm before we took off. After a short time, I was excused. I returned to my bunk but could not sleep as the roll of thunder and the flashes of diminishing lightning from this massive storm hung around Calcutta. I kept reliving the fight for survival. I could not sleep. About three hours later, I was routed out by the Charge of Quarters and called for another flight. Getting dressed and reporting to the operations center, I was assigned to another crew. I could barely speak let alone go out again. Where were my original pilots? They were given the day off, I was told. "Why not me, too?" I complained, "that isn't fair". The same operations officer was still on duty. I must have looked well bummed out. He told me to go back to quarters and get some rest.

    I now knew the feel and brush of imminent death. The main enemies were the Japanese, but an equal and constant secondary enemy was the weather. India and Burma had entered the height of the summer monsoon season and it was going to be one rough flight after another. Captain Daniels, the operations officer who was on duty that night, assigned me to Radio Maintenance for the rest of May. I began flying again on June 2 on C-47 hospital runs to Lalmanirhat and Sylhet. The offensive to retake Burma was in full swing. I flew several ensuing flights in June with Captain Daniels and Lieutenant Priest until June 15. I was assigned line work as a radio mechanic until July 17.

    On July 17, I was sent to the LINK Trainer room. It was a small room containing a simulated blind flying machine, in which the pilot would sit in a cockpit attached to the top of a pedestal in the center of the floor. Instead of a canopy of glass, the cockpit's canopy was a black hood through which the pilot could not see. He would fly a simulated flight using the instruments on the dashboard display in the cockpit.
Taking a break in the C-47 - Workhorse of the ATC
The "flight" descent onto an airport would be by instruments and the flight path controlled by the merging of radio signals that transmitted A's (a dot dash sound) and N's (a dash dot sound) in a field that was divided into quadrants with the A's and N's in opposing quarters but as they moved toward each other the two would blend and become one solid tone. This was called flying the range.

    The base had lost its LINK Trainer operator. Could I do it? I did not know why they chose me. After being shown how to operate the grids and radio codes and studying what needed to be done and seeing how the LINK could be made to simulate the flight patterns "flown" by the pilot, yes, I can do this. I was assigned new duty as the LINK Trainer Operator. It was not difficult to do and the best part of the whole thing was the fact that as the pilots came and practiced their let downs and ranges, I learned the different landing patterns that were made at different air bases throughout the CBI Theater. The LINK "flight" descent onto an airport would be made by instruments to stay level and turn and descend. I learned the ranges and the timings north, south, east, or west as I guided the radio signals while a little wheel followed the pilot's course and copied it on an outside diagram that recorded the simulated flight in the let down area. The pilot's flight simulation was printed on my range diagram as I operated the "a" and "n" sounds that the pilot used to make the correct decisions. After a month of this duty, a LINK operator was assigned to the base and I returned to full flight status on August 20, 1944.

    Almost daily flights were made rotating with different pilots; flying all over India into places with exotic names that weren't exotic at all: Chabua, Karachi, Ondal, Jorhat, Gaya, Sookerating, Sylhet, Columbo, Ceylon, Ranchi, Lalmanirhat, Kharagpur, Chakulia, Panagarh, New Delhi, Bangalore, Ledo, Mohanbari, Tezgoan, Agra, Myitkyina, Tezpur, Misamari, Dergaon, Nagpur, Moran, and Bombay. We were constantly aware of the weather. Sometimes we would fly over the clouds and mists that shrouded the ground and sometimes we would fly up the Brahmaputra River valley a few hundred feet from the ground under an ominous overcast of black clouds and scud that filled the valley from one mountain side to the other. Most of the time we had to fly through the monsoon weather that produces over 400 inches of rainfall each year to the Assam Valley. Flying through these storms tested the mettle of the pilots and their crews. Reaction to the dangers was different for the pilots than it was for the radio operator. We were unable to physically fight the storm with our hands and minds as the plane gyrated and bounced in all directions. Sometimes it felt like a giant shovel was being banged against the plane. Rain would stream down the windshields making visual flying impossible. Instrument flying was the usual. Unless our pilots wanted us for some extra task, we would keep our place on watch, seat belt tight, and hope and pray for the best. The pilot had physical activity to work off his adrenalin build up while we could only worry.

    So many things would happen. It was not uncommon for the wings to be so stretched from the buffeting that rivets would have to be replaced to keep the airplane airworthy. We broke our flaps landing in Jorhat one afternoon and there were no replacement parts. We had to continue on to Chabua so the ground crew came out and riveted the flaps shut and we continued with our mission. The C-47 took off without a problem but the subsequent landings were hot and consumed a lot of runway. We returned to Calcutta after Chabua where there were parts to return that plane to active service. There was also the unusual that had nothing to do with weather. I remember coming out of Chabua with a planeload of nurses and injured soldiers returning to the states. I had stayed with the plane after we landed while the pilot and co-pilot went to operations. They were gone for at least two hours. While waiting, the plane was loaded with General Stillwell's adjutant, his staff, several wounded, recovering soldiers being sent to the rear, and a group of nurses being rotated stateside. The pilots finally returned and I did my thing, checking the radio, removing the elevator blocks, the wheel chocks, making sure everything was stowed properly, and the door closed. We fired up and the pilot spun the plane around and the tail hit the comer of a revetment with a loud bang. He stopped the plane and I opened the door, put down the steps, and the three of us went out to see what had happened. The tail cone was bent but not broken. The pilots checked the controls to the rudder and the elevators and they were working fine, so we fired up and took off for Calcutta. We had taken the short-cut run over the Naga Hills and were at about 8,000 feet in scattered clouds with good ground visibility. The co-pilot was in the left seat and the Captain was in the right seat. The Captain asked me to come up and sit in the right seat while he went back in the cabin. We were floating along very comfortably on autopilot and the co-pilot was dozing whenever both engines began to sputter and then they conked out. The co-pilot woke up and looked at me in confusion and then started to work to get off autopilot and the plane under control. We were dropping altitude fast. We were both looking all around. I realized that the gas gauges were registering empty. I shouted this to the co-pilot and he quickly reached over and switched tanks. With a sputter and then a welcome roar the engines came back to life. We had lost about three thousand feet. The Captain never came back to the cockpit to see what happened. I knew that he was talking with the nurses. American women were hard to find anywhere in this theater. I got out of my seat to take a look and sure enough there he was sitting with one of the women, completely and apparently unconcerned that we had lost thousands of feet of altitude. He came back about a half-hour later without comment. I was lucky that I didn't draw him again in the grab bag of flight rotations.

    Another time, we were on our way to Chabua in fair weather, at night at low altitude. We should have been close to Chabua and my pilot Lt. Young, called me on the intercom and said. "My Command Set (the pilot's short range radio used for takeoff and landing instructions) doesn't seem to be working. We see the Chabua beacon light. How about contacting them on your Liaison for landing instructions."

    I called and contacted the Chabua Tower, told them that our Command set was out and we were in sight of the field and were requesting landing instructions through our "big set." We were given instructions to blink our landing lights. We did and got a green light from below. "Okay, we see your light," I said and we were given instructions to go counter clockwise around the field and blink our lights again on our base leg. "Roger."

    We keep coming. Suddenly another airplane almost hit us flying in the opposite direction. He went right under us. I radioed, "A plane almost hit us. We are on base leg." Chabua tower replied, "We don't see you. Blink your landing lights." We did and got a green light from below: We continued around and the pilot set the plane for the runway below.

    I called, "We are on final approach." Chabua tower said, "We do not see you, blink your lights." We did and got a green light to land. Standing between the pilots as we moved toward touchdown, all three of us could see this was not Chabua's macadam runway, and when we hit it, we realized it was a metal strip runway usually used in forward fighter positions. We rumbled to a stop and turned around. We had landed at the wrong field. Where were we? It had to be an advance strip or a new field. We had no radio contact for we didn't know where we were. What to do? Ask someone.

    "Doug, go out and ask where we are." "Lieutenant, I'm not going out until I know whose side they are on; they may be Japs." "You're right, what to do? I'll tell you what, go back and crack the door and I will slowly taxi up the runway. If you see anyone looking like a Jap, yell, and we'll take off."

    I was frightened but I went back and cracked the door. As we slowly made our way up the steel runway, three Americans appeared. I ran back to the cockpit and shouted to Lt. Young that they were Americans and he stopped the plane. They came to the door. What a foolish question to have to ask? "Where are we?" I said as I put down the steps and jumped to the ground. "We are going to Chabua." "You are at Moran and Chabua is about 60 miles northeast" "Thanks."

    With a sigh of relief I went to the cockpit and Lt. Young got out his maps to figure out which way to go. We then taxied to the end of the runway, blinked our landing lights, got another green light for takeoff and went airborne again. All of this probably took 15 to 20 minutes. I went back to my headset and Chabua Tower was screaming, "Victor 116, Victor, 116, give us a call, give us a call. Where are you, where are you?"

    They thought that we had gone down since they had had no radio contact after I had called them that we were on our final approach I assured them that we were okay and still on our way. As we got closer to Chabua Lieutenant Young was able to use his Command set for landing instructions. We had just been too far away for that set to carry that far. At least that one ended well. A bit of razzing for the pilot but he survived. Moran, India became a regular hump base later in the war.

    On another flight into Myitkyina, we had a planeload of Cavalry troopers in full battle gear, who were going into combat there. One of the men told me that he had been with Merrell's Marauders and they had been promised that if they took Myitkyina they would go home. They took Myitkyina, turned it over to the Chinese, and were sent back to Calcutta expecting to go home. They were recalled because the Chinese couldn't hold and lost Myitkyina back to the Japanese troops. We held the airstrip but not the town. The Japanese were holding the town and it was in the way of moving the troops so that Burma could be recaptured. The trooper said he had served with Merrill in the South Pacific. He said he would like to have my job. He told me how lucky I was that I could go back to my tent and bed at Dum Dum the same night. How right he was. All the rough flying was nothing compared to the danger and misery of fighting on foot against both the enemy and the jungle. I have the greatest respect for the infantry GI who, under the worst of circumstances, was still able to cope. War was not fair. My duty, though dangerous, was nothing compared to actual combat under these jungle conditions. We landed and our troops took off. The plane was reloaded with wounded and war weary men. We taxied out for take off and headed back to Dum Dum. Yes, I was relieved to get out of there and thankful that I did not have to stay.

    Another unusual flight was to a Central India base that is not identified in my flight records. We flew from Dum Dum to a dry desert area, I believe it was close to Ramgarh, India. We were in an empty C-47 and did not know our mission. Upon landing, the two pilots left me in charge of the airplane as they went to operations for further instructions. The heat was unbearable and absolutely dry. I took off my shirt. I was a PFC at the time and the stripe was sown on my shirtsleeves. I settled under the wing in the shade. I was immediately thirsty and completely dry. There was no water on the plane and as the minutes passed, I felt that I must have a drink of water. There were several British four-man tents close to the plane so I went over to the nearest tent and a British soldier was inside lying on a rope bed. There was a crock of water in an earthen basin and I asked if I might have a drink. He got up and rationed me one cup. I was as thirsty after the drink as I had been before I went over to the tent. It must have been 115 degrees. This was a complete contrast lo the humidity and sticky heat of Calcutta. Because of the heat, I sat under the wing for at least an hour and did not put on my shirt. Finally, a truck loaded with Chinese soldiers pulled up and they unloaded barracks bags and other paraphernalia. I looked at them and they looked at me and nobody seemed to be in charge. They remained standing or sitting on their baggage, talking excitedly as the truck drove away. They were talking about me, I was sure, since a couple of them pointed toward me with the words, "Merican Flyer, Merican Flyer", all the English I heard or could understand. Finally after about another half an hour, my pilots came back and seeing nothing happening, the first pilot said to me, "These people are going with us. See what you can do to get them in the plane and their baggage tied down."

    I went over and said, "Let's load up." No one understood. I repeated several times to begin loading and finally in desperation lifted one of them off his baggage and shouted to move, move, move and pushed him in the direction of the plane steps up the steps, and threw his baggage in after him. I went for another of the soldiers and they all began to gather their gear and hurry into the plane. I was pushing everybody back and forth making sure their baggage was in and everyone was seated in the bucket seats. The pilots could see this activity from the open cockpit door.

    After everything settled down, the first pilot was laughing and said "Take a look at the manifest I have." A manifest was a listing of the goods materials, or passengers that a plane was carrying, "We have just loaded 22 generals and 2 colonels of the Chinese Army who were sent here for training," the pilot remarked as he gave me the manifest to read.

    He was laughing at the idea of a private ordering around all those generals. I wish that we had been able to copy that manifest. I had no idea of the identification insignia showing the rank of Chinese soldiers and I look them for a bunch of privates. I did not put my PFC shirt back on, but stayed in my T-shirt for a couple of hours as we were flying at low altitude. It began to get colder in the early evening as we approached our destination. I made several checks on how they were doing while we were airborne by visiting the cabin and they were patting me on the back; offering me their canteens for a drink and everywhere I heard, "Merican Flyer, Merican Flyer".

    Great friendship was the order of the day even after the rough way I had treated them. I finally put on my shirt and over that my A2 flight jacket. We landed and they disembarked. They may have been slated for the Burma fighting or a return over the Hump to China. The PFC outranked them all for at least four hours.

    A real break in flying from Dum Dum and the Valley was the occasional flight to Bangalore with a load of airplane engines being taken to the Indian Aircraft Depot for rebuilding. Bangalore was in the mountains and always cool. It was clean and comfortable and usually the flight included a further flight to Columbo, Ceylon. The trip was far from the hustle and bustle of the valley and its constant bad weather. I remember going to downtown Bangalore where two small girls approached me, about four years old, shaking tambourines at me. Upon closer observation, they were well dressed but could not speak. They were professional beggars' children. Each had a piece of silver metal wire with an ornate spear like lip protruding from the front of the mouth and two pieces of silver metal wire protruding through both cheeks and across the tongue. A round bumper device connected the three wire protrusions around the outside their face. This device held their tongues down loosely so that they had no speech but could still make sounds and thump their tambourines to attract attention while they were looking for baksheesh, money. I was saddened to see this and the memory of the plight of those innocent children remains forever.

    This did not happen to me, but another radio operator was part of a three-man crew that was ferrying a B-25 to Bangalore. The'B-25 had its bomb bay between the pilots' cockpit and the radio operator, whose position was in back of the bomb bays. A noisy airplane was the B-25, like shaking a bucket of bolts all the time it was in the air. Anyway, unlike the cargo planes, there was only intercom contact between crew members. It seems that the RO had fallen asleep about a half an hour before reaching Bangalore. Shortly after he fell asleep, one of the pilots had somehow pushed the wrong button and released the plane's life raft. It caught on the tail section creating a terrible racket. The pilots were working to shake it off and it was touch and go, as far as they were concerned, for a little while. The pilot shouted through the intercom to the sleeping RO, "Prepare to bail out." The RO woke up with all the rumble, noise, and shaking. He only heard the last part of the pilot's sentence, "Bail out." and so he did. They were about 30 miles from the field. The pilots got the life raft loose and landed safely. Several hours later, the RO appeared. He had hitched a ride in a truck and arrived carrying the open parachute pack and the nylon folded as well as he could, none the worse for wear except for a good fright.

    Many of the flights to which I was assigned were hospital flights. Litter racks would be set up across the plane and the injured and wounded would be transported to a base hospital for recovery and treatment. There were some terrible injuries. I remember a soldier who had lost his lower jaw. He could not speak. His nurse told me that he wanted to die. Many, as expected, had life-threatening wounds. The medics would hang plasma drip bottles for those that needed it and the nurses watched their vital signs. One of the nurses came running into the flight deck looking for a patient who had come through the crew door asking to listen to my radio. She cajoled him back into the cabin. She told me that he had a complete mental breakdown and shouldn't be anywhere near the crew quarters. There was always great concern and selfless support from the medics and nurses who accompanied and administered carefully to those injured men

    I had another short flight to Gaya, India. Gaya was west of Calcutta and not in the direction of the Japanese offensive. It was several hundred miles from the fighting, A staff car had driven up to the C-47 in Dum Dum and out stepped a Brigadier General and several staff officers. They loaded onto the plane and settled in the bucket seats. I went back when all were loaded and pulled up the steps and closed the door. We took off and headed for Gaya. About a half-hour from Gaya, a First Lieutenant came into the flight deck and requested that I call the tower and request a staff car meet the flight. Tell them that the General needs a car. "Okay," I replied and immediately got on the radio and after calling the Gaya Tower I told them exactly what the Lieutenant had told me to do. I asked for a staff car for the General that we had aboard, using his name. We landed shortly after that and I opened the door, put down the steps, gathered up the chocks and blocks and went on about my business. The General and his contingent began disembarking and suddenly another First Lieutenant, very irate came racing up to the plane.

    "Who's the radio operator? I want to talk with him," he shouted. I said I was and he braced me to attention and I was really berated for putting the General's life in danger by requesting the staff car. "But" I tried to defend myself as everyone stopped to watch including the General, "I was told to request a staff car for the General," I said, but to no avail. It was a possible court-martial and stupid and many other things. The Lieutenant slowed as he ran out of words. I didn't know what to do but just stand there and finally I blurted out, "How should I have done it?"

    I got an answer that I should have requested a staff car for a very important person and not broadcast names or rank. The lieutenant was right, I hadn't thought about it. He gave me a real bawling out and I was put down completely and terribly embarrassed. Finally, it was over and as I stood there completely abashed, the General, who was carrying a short riding crop walked over to me. I thought, "I'm really going to get it now."

    He sidled up to me, and when he was close, and no one else could hear his remark, he topped me with the riding crop and said, "Don't worry about it, son, I got my car." He smiled, winked, and strode toward the olive green sedan that was waiting for him.

Mel Weber and Asa Taylor
Asa was a Crash Crew member
Babu, the boss, under the umbrella holding the dog,
and his laborers.

    On November 8, 1944, I was notified of reassignment to the Hump. I was assigned to Jorhat, India, in the Assam Valley. I had completed 84 round trips in the durable C-47 at the time of receiving the order to Jorhat. In flight time this amounted to 605 hours. I was somewhat familiar with Jorhat, having flown in and out of there many times on the Valley run. We were flying out of Jorhat one day in a C-47 on our return to Calcutta. It was pouring rain and the ground was wet and muddy. We arrived at the plane and found that our engine starter on the right engine was not working. There were no mechanics about.

    The pilot, looking at the co-pilot, said, "Someone will have to get out and crank up the right engine, the starter solenoid is not working." The co-pilot, looking at me, said, "Someone will have to get out and crank the right engine."

    I said, "I've never done anything like that. How do you do that?" "There is a crank behind my bulkhead," the pilot instructed me. "There is a slot in the nacelle. Engage the crank and start it turning. Don't stop until the engine is going full blast. You'll know."

    I found the crank. It was a long handled one. It was part of the plane's equipment. I went out in the rain and mud with that long handled crank, found the spot in the nacelle to insert it, and began turning the engine. The engine was much easier to move than I had expected and it began turning over. It began to whine and I prayed that the pilot would not miss getting it going. Sure enough he caught it right and it coughed and coughed and started. Another job learned. I brought in the crank, pulled up the steps, and closed the door, soaking wet with mud over my ankles. We flew back to Calcutta without incident.

    Before leaving for Jorhat, I said goodbye to Mel Weber. He was not being transferred. We had lived in the Dum Dum tent town in harmony and I was sorry that we would part. I think that he was later assigned to search and rescue, troop carrier, and food dropping missions in Burma after I left. His name appeared on my orders whenever we were sent back to stateside so I know that he survived the CB1. I later saw his picture in Ballantine's history of the Air Lift to China with a group of survivors of a search and rescue C-47 that had been shot down by the Japanese. I have searched for information as to his whereabouts but have been unsuccessful.




THE HIGH HUMP AND CHINA

    Jorhat was a C-87 base. We called the C-87's, the "Big Ones." The C-87 had four engines and twin rudders. It was a modification of the B-24 bomber. The C-87 had a cabin built into the fuselage instead of bomb bays. It could carry cargo and personnel. The cargo doors opened on the left rear side of the plane and the flight deck was three steps up from the front of the cabin. The flight deck could be shut off from the main cabin by a trapdoor. The flight deck had four seating positions; left front for the first pilot and, right front for the co-pilot. Behind the pilot's position was a seat and a lift up table which was used by the navigator or the crew chief should either be flying and behind the co-pilot was the radio operator's station. The radioman had a face-front desk on which was a telegraph key. Behind him was the Liaison radio sitting on small spring bolts attached to a metal rack against a bulkhead. The RO had to turn around to operate this equipment.

    The four-engine C-87 added a fourth crewmember, the flight engineer or crew chief. Navigators were not part of our crew. His position was often vacant unless someone was deadheading back to an Assam base and needed a ride. The normal crew consisted of four persons: pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, and radio operator. Navigation was done by ground check points, instruments, radio direction finder (radio compass) and voice radio. Loran was not available on the Hump during my tour of duty. It was just being introduced when I left.

    The C-87 was a high altitude plane with a reputation for trouble since it had a Davis wing, which did not carry the plane as well through icing conditions as did the wings of a C-47.


The C-87, power and four engines, flew the Able Route on the high Hump.


    Another version of the B-24 was the C-109 of which many were also based at Jorhat. The C-109 was a tanker. We sometimes referred to it as a flying coffin. In its bomb bays were huge black fiber gas tanks for carrying aviation gas to China since the most precious thing for its war effort and our Air Forces in China was gasoline. Entry into the C-109 was through the bomb bay doors and up a small ladder into the flight deck. The C-109 was really a flying gas tank. I was not too thrilled with the prospects of flying in the C-109 but there it was. There was no armament on either the C-87 or the C-109. I carried a 45 pistol in a shoulder holster and a full clip of bullets in the knee pocket of my jump suit. Before each flight, I would check out a first aid kit that fitted on my belt. It contained bandages, sulfa powder, and morphine. We had to be careful that these would not get stolen for the morphine was a target. One happier thought; however, we now get to carry parachutes again and this was some comfort.

    Travel to Jorhat took up a couple of days, getting settled a few more, and my first Hump trip was an overnight, November 15 and 16, 1944, with Lieutenant Loyal Marrs. I was being checked out by another RO and we flew to Pengshan, China and return in a C-87. The Hump run consisted of three almost parallel routes into and out of China, the Able route over the higher mountains, the Charlie route over the central mountains, and the Easy route over a slightly lesser tier of mountains. All of these routes were dangerous. The high Hump, that was flown to Chengtu and the northern parts of Szechwan province by the 87's and 109's, was called the Able route and crossed the higher elevations between India and the destinations. The Able route had two possible routes, one directly to Chengtu, north of the Likiang Mountain and one just south of Likiang. The flight to the Chengtu area was about 750 miles. After landing in the northern areas, we would either return on the Able route or, in many cases, we would pick up troops or cargo for Kunming or Luliang, 400 miles south, in Southwestern China and return by the Charlie route over Yunanyi in Western China. Kunming to Jorhat was about 550 miles.


HUMP ROUTE GUIDE  Hump Route Guide - CLICK TO ENLARGE
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    We mostly flew the high Hump route as the C- 87's had turbochargers that could get the plane into the higher altitudes, clearing most of the massive mountains. We had been issued winter flying clothing. Leather sheepskin-lined jackets and pants, tight-fitting leather aviator's helmets that buckled under the chin, warm mittens, fur-lined boots, and a large flight bag to carry the stuff.

    We would take off in the heat of the Assam Valley wearing light-weight jump suits and as the plane ascended, we would put on our cold weather flying gear. As we reached about twelve thousand feet of altitude, we put on oxygen masks that had a balloon-like rubber bag attached that hung down in front and below the chin and would inflate and deflate as we breathed in and out. We would turn on the oxygen switch and it was on for the flight. We regulated the need for more oxygen as we ascended into the higher altitudes. Completely loaded, the C-87 could fly to China across the Hump at about twenty-two thousand feet, but on a return and empty, it could reach twenty eight thousand feet. There was no heat in the airplane. It was cold. The first real cold I had felt since being stationed in Nashville, Tennessee, in late 1943. We would put on the boots and mittens as we reached the below zero cold in the higher altitudes. Even with this equipment, fingers and toes would soon get numb as the temperatures dipped many degrees below zero. After becoming airborne, our route was east, following the Brahmaputra River valley, passing by Chabua and Ledo, heading for the Ft. Hertz radio homing beacon on the way. My first load going over the Hump was a cabin full of drums of gasoline, lashed securely down. We flew across upper Burma into China air to both a visual and radio homing beacon checkpoint, Likiang Mountain, and changed course northeast over checkpoints Sichang and Loshan to Pengshan where a let down was made and a safe landing on a rolled stone runway. The flight over took three and one half hours. We kept a log of the calls, to where and what, and we kept on radio with a logged entry at least every fifteen minutes. Calls to bases with positions were made at various points and this first trip went by without a hitch. Trucks immediately showed up and their occupants began unloading the gasoline drums. We went to a mess hall and for the first lime in many months I had a feast of eggs, virtually unknown in India.. We returned to our plane and as the trucks drove away, we reentered and began the routine checking of all equipment, starting the engines, clearance from the tower, taxiing, engine run-up and take off. We were back in Jorhat on November 16. The flight back against a headwind took four and one half hours. As we came down from the high altitude and cold, we reversed dressed, taking off the cold weather flying clothes and replacing them in our flight bags. I do not remember the RO that checked me out, but I was on my own for the next trip. It came soon enough.

    I was called on November 17 to fly again and I was assigned to Lieutenant Marrs second time, this time to Chengtu. The planes carried Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) sets that identified us friendly as part of many Hump trips crossed Japanese occupied territory. These sets emitted a signal at all times while in flight so that our own planes and troops would not shoot at us as we crossed the Burmese border. I would pick up a sheet with a voice code that was changed each day so that voice messages could be coded and the enemy would not know the directions and whereabouts of the plane's route. Carrying the bulky flight bag full of winter clothes and the current radio code, I was driven to the plane with Lt. Marrs and his co-pilot. A parachute was on my seat and was considered pan of the airplane's equipment. Checking out the radio equipment with calls to the tower crew was the first order of the flight as, at the same time, the pilots followed preflight instructions on their check sheets. When all was in order a crew chief, who usually did not fly with us, would be outside overseeing the starting of the engines. After the engines were started, the pilot would begin his conversations with the control tower for taxi and takeoff. We would taxi to the end of the runway and take off position. Here was the careful ritual of "running up" the engines one by one. The C-87 had four engines and these were the days of checking out each one to make sure that it had enough pressure to operate properly. It was a time of noise and those four engines took some time to run up and check out. Jorhat had constant engine noise as planes readied to take off night and day. Before going to my station and buckling my seat belt for take off, I would stand behind the pilots and watch the manifold gauges with them. Finally, when all was checked, the pilot would request take off and we were given permission to go. The pilots held the plane in place with the brakes and ran up the engines to a deafening roar and the C-87 shuddered and shook and tried to get under way. The first pilot manned the controls and the co-pilot manned the throttles. At the right moment the brakes were released and everything jolted forward as the power took over and we rolled down the runway gathering speed so that the heavy load we were carrying could get airborne. It was a time for the Act of Contrition followed by several Hail Mary's. God was always a partner and prayer came easily during times of stress and anxiety. Airborne and struggling, the ship would begin its climb, the engines pounding until an altitude was reached that would allow a cutback on the power and a trimming and adjusting of the engines and flaps. At that point, a sigh of relief and get to work with the long-range Liaison radio.

    Each base had a two-word code identifying it from the rest In 1944 Jorhat was Tare Charlie. This was changed in 1945 to Peter William. Chengtu was Charlie Uncle and Kunming was Roger Queen. We used these call names for radio contact and although most of the time conversations were not coded, we would sometimes receive messages that were in code and we would decode and pass them to the pilot. Radio Operators would recognize the voices of the other RO's and would know who was where and what was happening to them. We would stay on frequency for the entire flight and monitor all the conversations between planes and control towers. In this way we knew what was occurring at other places on the Hump. We were able to warn and receive warnings from other planes of impending danger, conditions, and storms. We were able to hear their distress calls and give advice. We kept a written log of our voice contacts and were required to log "on watch" every fifteen minutes whether or not we were in conversation or contact. The logs were turned in to operations after each flight.

    The C-87 gave the radio operator a chance to see more of the outside world. The radio operator's station on a C-47 had no window. If we wanted to see anything from the C-47, we had to get up and look out the pilot's windows. The C-87 had a small window for the RO next to the number three engine. Of course, the RO could get up and look out the navigator's window and the pilots' windows, too, if he wanted to see both sides. As we climbed out of the Assam valley, the mountains began looming large. I remember my first sighting of three snowcapped mountain peaks on the left horizon, shining brilliantly in the late afternoon sunshine, the Three Sisters we called them. They were at least twenty thousand feet high. The Sisters were always a point of reference whether coming or going across the high Hump route. Flying easterly we crossed over the Salween and Mekong River gorges, far, far below, cut out over the millenniums by the rivers in their bottoms. Not a place to land anywhere. The view would change as we passed over the higher ranges that now had no vegetation and were snowcapped. On to a most important checkpoint, Likiang Mountain, and there a left turn on the way to Chengtu. Next came Lolo Land. We had been warned that within this area was much uncharted territory. There was a question whether the people of Lolo Land were friendly or not. Rumor said that they might be headhunters, cannibals, or worse. As the shades of evening came down, ground fires were visible, letting us know that, indeed, people were there. I never knew of anyone actually being mistreated by them. In fact, I had one friend who went down somewhere in this section of China and although he had a broken leg, he was feted, and carried on a litter many miles through many small villages and finally to an American base. He had received a hero's welcome from the Chinese. As we came in to land at the Chengtu base, on the approach side, there were crashed airplane hulks-three or four that did not make it. One of them, a B-29, had fallen about two miles short of the runway and was jammed in a shallow ravine. Although these two flights thus far had been without incident, the crashed planes reminded us that this was a dangerous job. Our drums were unloaded again and we returned without incident. The trip took about twelve hours overall, of which eight hours and twenty-five minutes were spent in the air.

    A small plus came with flying the Hump. It was so dangerous that each flight was considered combat duty. The flights over enemy territory, the possibility of being shot down in an unarmed aircraft, the weather, the mountains, and the dangerous and explosive cargoes were considered, by the powers, to be combat flying. So what was the plus? I had only had one combat mission up to this point, flying into Myitkyina. This was my third flight over the Himalayas and as we had done on my first Hump flight, each returning crew had to check in with
Tent City at Jorhat in the Assam Valley
December, 1944
the medical officer before we were permitted to go back to our quarters. He always asked if there were any difficulties and how did we feel. Although I was a very moderate drinker of alcohol, here was the plus. After a couple of questions about how things went and a visual check out, the medic would pull out three shot glasses and fill them to the brim with whiskey, one for each of us. At Jorhat, it was Pennsylvania Rye. After being on oxygen for all those hours and on many nights being in the tension and uncertainty of a rough flight for hours at a time, the "drink" was one of the most welcome medicines for mind and spirit that one could receive. One shot was all you were allowed, but after downing it, picking up your clothing and property, and climbing in the back of a waiting truck that took you to tent and bed, your mind would dull and you would almost be asleep by the time you reached your bunk. It was a blessed feeling to be able to ease into sleep and forget the recent action. We all looked forward to the reprieve. I never saw anyone turn it down.

    I flew with Lt. Burke to Pengshan on November 20 and 21, ten hours air time. We landed back in Jorhat early on the 21st. It was my first trip in a tanker, the C-109. I was called out again on the same day. There was a big push on to get as much tonnage as possible into China. We flew to Luliang, then Chengtu, Kunming, Sookerating, and Jorhat. Lt. Dobbins was the pilot on this trip. We were sixteen hours in the air and it took all night and most of the next day with stops at four destinations.

    Trips followed trips. As we would come in over most of the China airfields after crossing the mountains, the problem of getting on the ground was probably as dangerous as the flights to get there. Always, it seemed, the weather was soupy with fog and drizzle sometimes as high as 30,000 feet in the Pengshan and Chengtu areas. There were several airfields in the Chengtu area, each one had a letter and number identification: they were A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, etc. As we came over the area, we would call in and be assigned one of the fields. Planes would be stacked up in the soupy, stormy clouds over the field, flying the ranges, each plane flying at 500-foot altitude intervals. One would be landing, another would be moving down 500 feet, and each plane above would be called, one after the other, to move down to the next 500 foot level below the one on which they had been holding. I am still amazed today that the pilots, green from stateside, could come in on the top of that stack of planes; follow the ranges and the instructions, and let down through 20,000 feet of pea soup fog and often storms full of violent turbulence and lightning. They would reach the ground safely, day and night. This was a real tribute to the training and ability of the United Slates soldier, be it in the air or in the control towers whose operators on the ground guided us safely down. My LINK trainer stint came in handy as I was able to help with some of the let downs as I knew many of the charts by heart We would fly a figure eight "pattern" back and forth until we were called to move down. Sometimes visibility on the field would become so minimal that we would be stuck in the stack for hours. Sometimes the visibility would never clear and we would have to abandon one stack and head for another where the visibility for landing was a little better. I don't remember with whom I was flying, but we got into a stack and were moving down in order and we got to about 5,000 feet. Conversations between planes and the ground control were for all to hear. As we were listening, a plane that had been about three above us in the stack suddenly requested landing instructions. Somehow they had slipped down through the slack, passing several planes hidden in the soup, and specifically, our plane. We gasped, I had never seen a pilot that angry. We worked our way down and eventually landed and both the pilot and co-pilot headed for operations, the pilot screaming that he was going to kill that bastard. I had to stay with the ship but I heard about the terrible argument whenever they returned. The offending pilot gave excuses that he had to get on the ground because of mechanical trouble. I hope it was true, I would have hated to lose my life so someone so callous.

    The airfield at H'sinching, China was a regular destination with our loads of gasoline and bombs. If we had time, we would visit the village of H'sinching. There wasn't much there; a few shops with little to sell The shopkeepers expected to bargain. No sale was ever undertaken without this being part of the transaction. This was the culture. We would try to get the best price but I know that we were losers at this bargaining. We could afford it, I'm sure the shopkeepers thought, but the few souvenirs that we obtained were worth it to us. The Chinese would not take Chinese currency for it had little value. United States dollars were the money of the region in the eyes ot everyone. This reminds me of a flight that I had one evening that consisted of many large, sealed-tight metal boxes that were being delivered to Kunming. According to the manifest, the boxes were filled with Chinese paper money. It was labeled as printed by the Philadelphia Mint. It was probably counted as many millions of Chinese dollars, but in actuality the current black market currency exchange at the time, made a million Chinese dollars worth about 320 U.S. dollars. The entire shipment was not worth the cost of getting it there. H'singching was peasant and farm country. The people were poor but always courteous to us. In the villages, there were tea houses serving food, but the mess halls at the China bases had excellent fare and I stayed away from any type of local restaurant. Families would nod as they passed. Always there were very young children in arms being carried about. The parents were poorly dressed but the children would be wearing bright clothing, almost a costume, with fancy little slipper shoes with curly pointed toes. They were extremely proud of their babies and they dressed them well.

    Repeat flights, almost daily or parts of every day, became the commonplace. Tonnage records on the Hump were to be made by order of the high brass. Planes and crews were being pushed to the utmost. We flew with a burned dynamotor; we returned with a gas drum leaking and took off again to have another drum show up leaking gasoline. We were in high altitude when this was spotted so we flew over anyway.

    Everyone smoked in those days. GI rations even contained little packs of cigarettes, four to a pack. How dangerous it was to smoke on these flghts, but we did sometimes when reaching rarefied altitudes. We figured that nothing would burn at that height without the oxygen. After reaching cruising altitude, 22,000 to 25,000 feet, we would sometimes unhook our oxygen masks on one side so that the oxygen could spill out just enough to keep the cigarette burning. In looking back, what an awful risk to take It was, of course, officially forbidden.

    I remember an instrument letdown over Kunming where the range was down with the South leg twice as long as the North leg. South was over a lake and North was toward the mountains. We were flying at about 7,000 feet. I was standing between the pilots as the co-pilot was timing the North leg. I had seen this range from the LINK trainer days and was watching whenever I realized that we were long over the time to turn. He was reading the legs backwards. I jabbed at the co-pilot that we were going too long and he realized his mistake and the pilot, Lieutenant Hopkins, pulled the plane up immediately. We must have skimmed the top of the mountain on the North leg. We finally made it down with practically no visibility. Kunming airfield itself was about 6,000 feet above sea level.

    Weather could be uneventful and clear and the rugged, snow-capped Himalaya Mountains would be beautiful. We were always happy to reach that special checkpoint, Likiang Mountain, for it was hallway there or halfway home. We would normally fly slightly south of the summit going "around the corner" using this 18,000 foot mountain as our principal landmark. Mountains on either side of Likiang were much higher going in both directions. The mountains could reach as high as 24,000 feet on the direct Hump route both in the approaches eastbound to Chengtu in Szechwan Province, China and the high Hump approaching Jorhat westbound from China. Toward the end of my tour I was flying with two new pilots just over from the states. It was a clear day. We were returning from Chengtu and as we rounded the comer at Likiang Mountain a flume of snow was blowing off the summit. They thought it beautiful, pulled out a camera, and moved closer for a picture. One pass was made while pictures were taken but the wind current blowing over the summit got us momentarily and we roller coastered down a couple of thousand feet. The bottom fell out of my stomach. I was afraid that we might move in too close and get in a downdraft from which we couldn't recover. They were going to try for more pictures when I got out of my seat and said, "I don't appreciate this at all. My gray-haired mother is looking forward to me coming home." Disgusted looks at me, but discretion took over and they veered away and we continued on toward India.

    Sometimes at night in the rarefied air at high altitude, the moon's light shining through the top bubble was bright enough to read print. But often the humid weather from the South would unite with the cold weather from the North and all hell would break loose. As we flew we could often see the storm clouds brewing their next maelstrom through which we had no alternative but to fly. There was no place to land.

    I had one of those trips with Captain Rhoads on December 16. We were a late night flight from Jorhat to H'Singching, a village close to Chengtu. We unloaded and then took some cargo to Kunming. This consumed most of December 16. We should not have attempted the return to Jorhat because of the weather, but we did. We made it through a terrible storm, arriving after midnight, December 18. My notes say quite a trip - no more need be added. We were battered and banged around in one of the massive storms that the weather conditions on the Hump were capable of creating. This trip took parts of three days to complete, of which airtime was 12 hours and 5 minutes.

    On December 23, 1944, I was assigned to fly with Captain Drum. We again flew to H'sinching, unloaded and then took off south for Kunming. Shortly before midnight, as we were approaching Kunming, I received a radio message that Kunming was under air raid warning. Japanese bombers were heading that way. The Japanese had an offensive going that was trying to move through Central China into Western China to cut off the China side Hump bases and to unite with their own troops in Burma.

    Notification of an air raid in China was very primitive. The Chinese would hoist a big red ball up a flag pole to indicate that enemy bombers were approaching, two red balls indicated the Japs were close, and when it got to be three red balls you better be under cover as the Japs were here. For our purposes, radio contact would warn us if a field was in danger by announcing a one, two, or three-ball alert, as the case might be. As we approached Kunming, I was given the one ball alert warning which I conveyed to Captain Drum. We continued and entered the flight pattern and proceeded around the field and were on our final approach. We had cut our engines back for landing, and at that moment, the tower announced a two-ball. It was too late to do anything but land and land we did. As soon as we came to a stop, I gathered up my code papers, and hustled out the door and down the steps onto the apron beside the runway. At that point, the whole base was given the three ball and having no idea where Captain Drum and the co-pilot had gone, I scurried across the plane parking area looking for a culvert or some protected place to wait out the impending bombing raid.

    I was stopped by one of our Military Policemen. He reached for my arm and held me there. He said, "We are evacuating this area." He held up his hand and stopped a jeep that was rushing toward us and shoved me in the back seat. All this happened in an instant. Lights were still on all over the base. There were two persons in the front seat of the jeep, the driver and a passenger. The driver floored the jeep and we took off full speed across the parking area. The moment that the jeep reached high speed, the lights on the field were suddenly turned off and we were in complete darkness. We careened out of the parking area and went airborne over the bank of a deep, wide ditch, smashing into the opposite bank. I woke up in the front seat, groggy and not able to move very well. I thought of fire and located the ignition switch and turned it off. I was able to crawl out of the jeep and then collapsed about six feet away. My next recollection was a lot of activity, men coming with a weapons carrier and lifting me into the back of the carrier, and placing me flat on my stomach. I could not move my legs. I had lost my glasses. Bits of glass were sticking on my face, either from my glasses or the jeep's windshield. I probably passed out at this point. I woke up lying face down in the back of the moving truck. It was a clear night with a bright moon and I could see that my hands and arms were covered with blood. I could not move my legs. We drove up a bouncy road to an aid station of some kind. I was placed on a stretcher and carried into what appeared to be a small hospital room with black shades drawn down. A medic came over with a clipboard and asked me my name, rank, and serial number.

    I shouted at him, "The hell with that, can't you see I'm covered with blood. Stop the bleeding." He said, "You're not bleeding." He got some towels and wiped my face and hands. The bits of glass on my face came away with the blood. I did not have a scratch. Whenever I was placed in the weapons carrier face down, the other two occupants of the jeep were ambulatory. They had both been catapulted through the windshield of the jeep and had severe head lacerations, but being ambulatory they sat on the side benches of the weapons carrier and they bled profusely on my head and arms. It was all their blood. I still could not move my legs. After being cleaned up and properly registered, and taken to a hospital bed, I found I was at the Kunming base hospital. The pain was horrible, I could only think that I might be paralyzed for life. After a fitful night and the noise of airplanes overhead and firing, quiet finally came and with it dawn. Eight Japanese planes were reported shot down as they dropped antipersonnel bombs on the airfield. The first person that I saw in the morning was a Catholic nun. She was the nurse and gave me a bottle to pee in and kept talking to me while she was taking care of other patients in the room. She kept looking at me and kept telling me to hurry up, as she needed to move on with her day. I couldn't do the number one in her presence. I told her so and she retorted, "That's ridiculous, I've been chased all over China by the Japs and have seen everything." I said it wasn't going to work if she stood there.

    "Oh, all right," she said with disgust and turned her back. I was able to do my thing after much maneuvering since I was still unable to move my legs. The Nun told me how she had been chased from one end of China to the other and that she was happy to be helping in the hospital. Some time during the day, a doctor came in with a medic in tow and after an examination he said that he thought that I had nothing broken that could be seen or felt and the doctor's diagnosis was a severe back sprain. They taped it and prescribed the usual army cure all for everything, aspirin. This helped relieve the muscles. Little by little, I began regaining movement in my legs but not enough to get out of bed. The day passed slowly. Dinner came on a tray. There were other injured soldiers in this room that held four or five cots. I finally went to sleep and was awakened by a couple of medics with a flashlight around midnight. It was December 24, Christmas Eve.

    "Get out of bed. We have another three ball. There is a large foxhole, out the door to the left, and just behind this building. Get under cover, the Japs will be bombing again, " one of them shouted. "I can't walk, " I said. "You better walk," he said. "I can't get out of bed, " I said. He said, "I don't have time to help you. I have others to warn." The medics looked at me; grabbed head and bottom of the mattress and dumped it and me on the floor. "You can make it," they said and left to rouse others in different wards.

    I had on pajamas and a thin, military bath robe and I rolled over and crawled out the open door around the side of the building and into a fairly large foxhole that was occupied by three or four patients, similarly clad. It was cold. Nothing was happening and the time drew on until about an hour had passed. Kunming, China, in December, in the middle of the night, was cold. Pajamas and a thin robe were not nearly enough. It got colder and we griped that we were cold and nothing was happening so I finally decided that I was going back to bed. I declared that I was going back inside the building. I started to crawl out of the foxhole and just at that moment a plane went over followed by a P-38 and tracer bullets spewed from the '38 as it pursued the Japanese plane. The hospital was on a hill and the bullets seemed to be just overhead. I subsided back in the hole. Cold was forgotten. We cheered the '38 and were happy to stay there until someone came to us about four hours later and announced all was clear and we could return to our beds. I was able to stand up by now and able to walk slowly back. I was even able to wrestle the mattress back on the bed. The back spasms were diminishing rapidly. Christmas was uneventful except my back improved considerably. I was fortunate to have a pair of prescription aviator's sunglasses in a leather case that I always wore on my belt. The sunglasses had survived the wreck. The next day I was able to walk to sick call and the doctor said that I could leave the hospital and return to Jorhat. However, before releasing me, he sent me to the dentist the next day for an examination of my teeth. The dentist found that I had a large cavity in one of them. He cleaned it out using a foot-powered drill that took a, long time, and when he was finished he announced that there was no silver for a filling and he would use some temporary filling material.

    I was given permission to leave the hospital after that and was issued some papers to take with me. I was given my clothes, got dressed, put on my flight jacket and cap which miraculously survived, and waited outside for transportation to take me back to the Kunming air field. I did not know what had happened to Captain Drum and whether he and the co-pilot were still there. As I was getting into a truck to return to the airfield, another soldier got in with me. His head was heavily bandaged. I believe that it was the passenger that was seated in front of me when the Jeep was wrecked. I never saw the driver again. I did not ask and we parted in front of operations. I inquired there about Captain Drum and the co-pilot and was told that they looked for me and when they were told what had happened, they recruited a radio operator somewhere and returned to Jorhat the next day.

    Now I had another problem. Sore back and all, I needed to get back to my outfit. I was afraid that I would be listed as missing and that my family would get a telegram. I began looking for flights to Jorhat. Because of the Japanese offensive, none were coming to Kunming. I spent all day waiting. The Japanese push to conquer Western China, coupled with the recent bombing attacks, temporarily routed most Hump flights to the northern bases around Chengtu. Where do I stay tonight? I asked operations what to do and was sent to an almost empty barracks and was issued one blanket. I went to bed, to be awakened again for another three-ball alert. I took off from the barracks and looked for a culvert or some other safe place to hole up. I spent the next several hours in a large road culvert and after the all clear, I went back to the barracks only to find my blanket was gone. Daybreak was close by and as soon as I could, I returned to operations to try to hitch a ride back across the Hump. Finally, a plane from Jorhat came in and I was able to hitch a ride with its crew and get "home" on December 27.

    I checked in at Jorhat and was told to go on sick call December 28. I was pretty mobile by this time, the back spasms having subsided, but the back was still painful. I went on sick call and the doctor, after examining me, had his medic assistant tape my back with fresh tape and I was to report for daily sick call.

    I asked him, "Should I go back on flight duty?" "No," he said, "We would be afraid that if you would have to bail out you might injure your back again and would not be able to walk out. Wait a few days and we'll see how you progress."

    I reported each morning to sick call and kept pushing to go back on flight status and was finally cleared for flight duty on January 5, 1945. The medic at Jorhat was a young man whose father, he said, was a Medical Doctor in a small New England town. He wanted to be a doctor also. He was an excellent medic and I have often wondered if he made it. I have tried but I can't recollect his name.

    The Kunming bombings caused some chain reactions for me: 1) I have since then been unable to sit in long drawn out business meetings for any great length of time because my lower back muscles get tired and begin to ache and I have to stand and stretch them; 2) I eventually lost the tooth since the temporary goop wore out and I never got back to an overseas dentist to put in a permanent filling; and 3) About a month after returning to Jorhat, I was ordered to report to our base supply officer. He wanted me to return the blanket that he said I had. It was the blanket that I was issued in China that had disappeared during the air raid. I explained that it must have been taken during the bombing raid while I was in the culvert. This was to no avail. It was either produce the blanket or pay for it. I signed a paper and $6.61 was deducted from my next month's pay. C'est la Guerre.

    I returned to active flight duty on January 6 with Lieutenant Longtin for one of the wildest Hump flights I was ever on. I believe that an experienced Captain was sitting in the co-pilot's seat and was checking Lieutenant Longtin out. We flew to Chengtu in violent weather. We should probably not have attempted a return but there was a push on and the word was that weather was no reason to stay on the ground and we must return. We took off into the storm and were buffeted for hours in the midst of extremely violent weather and God's mercy. This storm was responsible for any number of lost airplanes. Official sources suggested that as many as fourteen planes were lost that night but unofficial sources and later investigations into Hump losses placed the figure much higher than that. The true number will never be known. That storm gave a turbulent shaking of the plane in all directions; ice on the wings; winds in the face of the flight; and monstrous clouds full of rain, hail, snow, and lightning above the plane, beside the plane, and under the plane. Radio contact was soon lost and the radio compass was useless. Our plane fortunately was empty on the return so we could fly higher than our "over" flight. It usually took about 5 hours to reach Chengtu flying west to east. The return flight that evening took over 7 hours, the headwinds were so strong. We never saw anything but instruments from takeoff to landing. Maydays were the norm that night and I was part of it. The antenna was covered with ice and radio navigation was not possible. After six and one-half hours, we were running out of fuel. It would be a matter of time. Lieutenant Longtin said that if we didn't get some direction soon we would have to bail out. A few minutes later, after that pronouncement, we hit a warm spot in the storm and the ice began to flake away from the plane and its antenna. The storm had somehow affected the power going into the Liaison set and the needle indicating that power was available was flat to the left and not moving to the vertical position where it had to be for the set to operate. In frustration, because I had worked and fussed with the set for hours and because Lt. Longtin had given the ultimatum of a possible parachute exit, I kicked that set as hard as I could with my right foot. It was mounted on springs attached to a frame. The set rocked back and forth. Suddenly the power needle sprang up and the set began to function again. I shouted, "The power is back, the power is back." I cheered and jumped up and down. I got to work right away. I must have knocked something loose that was just stuck. It could have been a loose tube that was jarred into position. I'11 never know. I called my Maydays again and again and suddenly I received contact. I counted numbers and "they" were able to read us and we got our bearings and directions from Peter William (Jorhat), Victor George (Chabua), and Roger Queen (Kunming). We discovered we were 20 minutes from Jorhat. We quickly headed there and landed with the gas gauges showing almost empty. We never saw the ground that entire evening until we were about 300 feet from the end of the runway with a visibility of about 3/4 mile. I kept notes on this flight. The radio saved our lives. The pilots had dead reckoned pretty well in the maelstrom of this huge storm to come back as well as they had. We were fortunate to survive the night. Many did not and those planes are forever part of the landscape of these mountain ranges.

    I was called to fly again on January 9, 1945, with Lieutenant Ed Schumacher, a really red-letter day for me. His co-pilot was Lieutenant Art Wollgast. We took off in the late afternoon and began the climb to top the mountains. We were about 40 minutes into the flight whenever the propeller ran away on the #4 engine. They handled it well and after feathering the prop, we returned to Jomat. On January 10, I was awakened by the CQ and reassigned to the same flight and the same officers. We took off for Chengtu and had a usual Hump trip of rough flying but nothing extraordinary. I had a good feeling about flying with these two men.

    I flew successive flights with Lieutenant Buck to Luliang, Captain Wilson to Kunming and Dergaon, Captain Points to Kwangaan, Lieutenant Shwartzoff to Kiunglai, Captain White to Luliang, Lieutenant Carter to Luliang, and Lieutenant Squires to H'singching, a flight that found us losing our number one engine on the return, but the C-87 could fly on three. We made it back. I flew with Lieutenant Barnes to Chengtu and Kuniriing, and then a nice break.

    On January 30, I was assigned a rare C-47 flight with Lieutenant Pike to Dum Dum, and Barrackpore to pick up supplies from the big city of Calcutta. I was able to have January 31 and February 1 to revisit downtown Calcutta and then we returned to Jorhat on February 2. I had completed about 800 hours of flight time and was getting the heebie-jeebies as the lonely lot of going from pilot to pilot began to take its toll. Memories of storms and dangers affected everyone sooner or later. The feeling was that each flight might be your last.

    About this time, a notice appeared in operations that the inspector general's representative was going to visit the base and if we had any problems we could see him and talk things over. A group of us had been flying in the CBI for 800 to 900 hundred hours and we made it a point to meet with him. We had two complaints, one was that ratings had been frozen since we arrived in the CBI and we were still flying as privates. The second was that it didn't appear that we were ever going to have a break from this duty as no replacements had been made for many months. One of the radio operators had just completed a third DFC and fourth Air Medal (1,050 flight hours on the Hump) and had recently died when his plane blew up taking off from Kunming. When could we expect some relief? The inspector said that he would consider our information. A couple of days later, he called us back and told us that he had checked and that replacements were on their way. In the meantime, our base commander said he would allow those of us who had more than 800 hours to pick a permanent pilot to fly with, as long as the pilot was satisfied. This was a new idea and I don't know if it was ever done in the ATC before or since, but it sounded great. We were delighted. A chance to fly with the best pilot. I went back to my tent and my tent mate and I talked about who was best. I made a list of the pilots I had flown with and quickly narrowed it down to two. Lieutenant Loyal Marrs or Lieutenant Ed Schumacher. I agonized over this for I respected them both and I thought that they were careful pilots. I finally came to the conclusion that I would choose Lieutenant Ed Schumacher and his flying partner. Lieutenant Art Wollgast.

    Call it fate or what, but a C-109 tanker piloted by Lieutenant Marrs crashed and burned in the first mountains on the West Side of the Hump shortly after taking off on February 27, 1945. This crash is detailed in The Aluminum Trail; a book devoted to the loss of airmen on the Hump, written by Chick Marrs Quinn, at that time Lieutenant Marrs' spouse. The entire crew perished in the crash that created an intense fire. The radio operator was Elmer Wang and from the report, I understand that none of the crew was ever recovered from the site.

    We were called once in awhile, if we were in quarters, to stand honor guard for our buddies who lost their lives. Their bodies had been found and returned by rescue parties. It was a painful duty. Jorhat had a Military Cemetery. If we were assigned, we would wear dress khakis and load on a truck to be driven to the service. The route from the base was through a small village, that was at the time, a leper colony. I never saw any of the people that lived there. They would disappear as we drove through. The burial service was done with full military honors with the mournful sound of Taps. It was a time of soul searching and unashamed tears welling in our eyes. This makes me recollect Cy Schipior, a friend who never came back.

    Lieutenants Schumacher and Wollgast also survived the war. Ed Schumacher currently lives in Carbondale, Colorado and Art Wollgast lives in San Diego, California. I had one more flight on February 4 to Chengtu with Lieutenant Harmon and then was assigned permanently to Schumacher and Wollgast on February 6. Crewing up was a great relief. Even though the Hump was still a formidable enemy, confidence in my pilots was paramount. Familiarity with what was expected made life easier. They even let me guide the plane sometimes from the co-pilot's position. Did we have rough times? You bet, but somehow they were easier to take. We flew to Chengtu on the sixth and got into real difficulty on the next trip on February 8th and 9th. We flew over in a C-87 without a problem. As we crossed the high hump, a storm was building up behind us. We landed at H'singching, unloaded our gasoline drums, drained our wing tanks of excess gas, and took off for Jorhat again. The storm had become a bad one as we drove directly into it. Bucking and shaking, the plane bounced all over as we could not top the clouds. We were carrying Chinese recruits and could not go beyond an altitude in which they could survive. Radio contact disappeared and we were soon on dead reckoning. The east/west part of this flight took seven hours and ten minutes to complete. We had a tremendous headwind. We had no idea just where we were as radio contact and ground sight were both lost. We finally, after about six and one half hours, were able to make radio contact and a Mayday count gave us tower radio bearings from Jorhat, Chabua, Mohanbari, and Chengtu. We were almost out of fuel and we found ourselves at Mohanbari, India, where we landed. In calculating headwinds, we thought that in some sections we must have flown through a 160 mile per hour gale. I do remember trucks coming to the plane and the Chinese soldiers getting off, absolutely exhausted. I did hate to haul those Chinese troops on the way back. They were not dressed for the cold. The airplanes had no heat. The cabins were not equipped with oxygen outlets. The soldiers had no oxygen and whenever we were forced to fly at higher levels during storms they must have really suffered in the rarefied air until we descended to a reasonable altitude. There were no sanitary or toilet facilities on the planes except a funnel connected to a half-inch plastic tube that ran to the outside bottom of the plane at the back of the flight deck. This was only available for the crew. If it was necessary to urinate or visit the cabin for any reason at high altitudes, we would disconnect from our oxygen supply and reconnect to a canister of oxygen that would be carried in our hands. There was limited time on the "bottle", as we called it, and you had to complete whatever you were doing or you would run out of oxygen in a matter of minutes. An empty gas drum was placed in the center of the cabin for the soldiers to use any way they could. Usually, some of them would throw up along the way. They would be huddled together in the cabin trying to keep warm. We were cold with the fleece-lined flying suits.

    Whenever we landed in Chengtu, the pilots would go to operations and it was usually my duty to stay with the plane until they returned with orders for the next move. After the planes were unloaded and the gas tanks drained down, I sometimes had time to just sit outside the plane and observe. One afternoon, a group of Chinese soldiers in skimpy quilted type uniforms, small visored caps, sandals or low cut rubber shoes marched up to my plane and I knew that they would be boarding for our return trip to India. Two of the soldiers were carrying, suspended from the center of a shoulder pole, a large black kettle full of soupy rice and floating vegetables. They lowered the kettle to the ground and sat as did all the others. The soldiers came with little baggage and no rifles or handguns except for two of them. They each carried a rifle and were apparently our equivalent of non-commissioned officers. The two "non-coms" took a couple of bowls and chop sticks and helped themselves to the kettle's contents, taking out the choicest morsels as the others sat around and watched. After they were finished, more bowls, about a half a dozen, were passed on to the next group who stepped up, inspected the kettle's contents and they, too, selected from what was there, taking the best of what was left. This procedure passed down, about six soldiers at a time, until the last group got its turn at the kettle. Imagination had to be the order for the last group as there was little left but a swill of muddy looking liquid sparsely peppered with floating rice. The one good thing was that they would be treated to better food while training on the Indian side of the Hump to which they were going. I hated to see them eat for I knew that many would be sick on the flight over as we ran into turbulence and altitude. The cabin at the end of these trips was usually a mess. They seldom were able to hit the open gas drum. I guess that some native Indian crew had to do the miserable clean up honors.

    Another afternoon, I witnessed this action. After the usual lunch, the two in charge counted their "squad" and suddenly great consternation and talking began. They counted again and with the second count they became more agitated. Apparently someone had deserted. About that time, two Chinese civilians came walking close by. The two Chinese soldiers in charge took one look and with an exclamation took off toward the civilians. The elder of the civilians saw them coming and ran immediately. The younger one, about 16, was confused and hesitated too long. A loud conversation ensued and finally he came with the two soldiers and joined the group. The two non-coms counted again and this time included the young man. They grunted to each other with the satisfaction of now being able to count a full complement of people. Somewhere, one of those soft-peaked Chinese soldiers' caps appeared. It was placed on the new recruit's head along with more grunts of satisfaction by the non-coms. Shortly after that the Chinese squad loaded themselves on our plane, including the newest recruit. Five hours later they were unloaded in India for training. I have often wondered at the stoicism of those troops, that they could seem to live through and tolerate such fates. I have often wondered if, just maybe, a whole new world was opened for the young man and if he was ever able to return to Chengtu after the war and see his family again. What an Odyssey that would have been. Ours was wild enough but we volunteered for it because we knew it was right. That poor soul just got caught in the tide and flow of wartime humanity.

    We flew successive missions to Kunming, Hisingching, and Luliang. Some of these flights were in a big triangle, heading for Chengtu, from there to Luliang, from there to Kunming, and from there back to Jorhat. Sometimes as many as 15 flight hours would be logged from Jorhat to Jorhat and often a nightly stay in China.

    Prior to a flight to Chengtu, I had checked out the radios and was about to close the cabin door whenever a truck drew up outside and a soldier jumped out. He asked, "Is Devaux here?" "Yes", I replied. He was holding a brown paper bag. He said, "I have a pair of boots here for a man named Harper, who will meet you when you land in China. He's to pay me with three bottles of rice wine. Take these to Harper. Harper will meet you at the end of your flight and he will give you the rice wine. I'll meet you when you come back."

    I said, "I don't know Harper. Who is he?" "Don't worry about it, he will know you. Will you do it? I sure want the rice wine." I thought, "What's the difference? It can't hurt anything, okay," I said, taking the boots and closing the door.

    Five hours later we are in a stack getting landing instructions at one of the "A" landing fields around Chengtu. We did not know our destination until we were cleared into the Chengtu landing pattern and were assigned a field. We made out letdown, landed, and taxied to a stop. A truck drives up as I am opening the door. The driver gets out and says, "I'm Harper, you got my boots?" I am flabbergasted. How on earth did he know where we were landing as we did not know until we got there. I gave Harper the bag with the boots and he gave me three bottles of light colored rice wine in greenish bottles with what looked like lots of sediment in them. "Be careful of them," he said, "My friend will pick them up when you get back. Don't drink any on the way," he laughed as he got back in his truck and left.

    I put the rice wine under the lift up shelf of the navigator's table where I always stashed my cold weather flying clothes. We finished our chores and took off for our return trip. As we climbed up to altitude and were passing 16,000 feet, I heard a muffled explosion. I looked all around but saw nothing amiss. About 18,000 feet, another muffled explosion occurred. It suddenly dawned on me that the rice wine couldn't stand the altitude, having been bottled at ground level. I looked under the navigator's table and sure enough, two bottles had shattered. One was still intact. This one made the trip. We landed back in Jorhat and the same soldier, who gave me the boots for Harper, met the plane. I explained what had happened to two of the bottles. He took the one bottle, said thanks, got into his truck and drove off. I never saw him before this flight or after. How did they arrange this?

    Another incident, I recall now, happened one evening flying to Kunming. I had tuned the radio to Radio Hanoi, an English speaking Japanese propaganda station that featured the latest stateside music with a pleasant, soft speaking female voice, much like Tokyo Rose. We called her, Hanoi Hannah. We were flying along listening to the latest recorded music from the United States, when she broke in and announced that our flight, she named our plane number, would never reach its destination and we would be killed. She also called the pilot by name. I forget with whom I was flying. This was quite discomforting but became a sort of regular occurrence for her to name pilots and flight numbers. Nothing happened, the flight was uneventful, but I have always wondered how did she know we were about.

    I remember having to stay in Luliang, China overnight. We were on our final approach while landing on the Luliang runway. There was a strong crosswind blowing and as we got close to the ground a much stronger gust blew a thick, dirty cloud of dust across the runway and it obliterated our vision. The plane was blown right and we landed, not on the runway but parallel to it in a rough area of cracked but unrolled stones. The nose wheel blew. Lieutenant Schumacher was first pilot for this trip. He somehow got the plane back on the runway and as it wobbled to a stop, I was out of my seat and out of the plane before it stopped rolling. Wollgast said he looked around to see if I was okay and he couldn't see me. When they got out, I was waiting. He asked me how I got out so fast. I said that when that nose wheel popped, I was out of my seat and headed for the door and when the plane slowed enough, I hopped out. I had imagined a fiery crash. The flow of adrenaline makes for quick action. It was easy. Anyway, we had to stay that night in Luliang. I was driven to a section of tents and assigned a bunk in one of them. No one else was around in any of these tents. I had been given a small bag of charcoal. An ice storm of freezing rain came up. I had stupidly left my sheepskin flying clothes under the navigator's table on the plane and couldn't go back to get them. The tent was soon covered with ice and the little bag of charcoal lasted about an hour. I was never so cold. I had no idea where I could go to get warm. That cold just permeated everything. I shivered the night away with little sleep. Somewhere a new tire was found and we took off the next day for the return to Jorhat.

    On February 13, 1945, after being a Private First Class since leaving radio school, I was promoted to Corporal. Promotions had been frozen from the time we reached Karachi in February, 1944. It gave some satisfaction to the home folks who probably wondered what I had done to remain a private so long. I flew over 100 hours of Hump flights with Schumacher and Wollgast. I remember my last flight. I was assigned a replacement, It was to Kwanghan on March 5 and 6. I was to orient my replacement on what to do. One of the pilots said, "Doug, teach him exactly how you do it. We like it and want him to do it the same way."

    I'm sure they would not remember this but I do, and have never forgotten that compliment. At the end of that flight, which was very routine, without storm or mishap, we went to the medics for briefing out and the usual shot of whiskey. I don't believe that the replacement had ever had a drink of hard liquor.
Hunting for deer on a tea plantation during rest leave at Pathalapam, India.
We all took our "medicine" and his remained untouched. He looked at it and said that maybe one of us would like to have it. The medics said no. only one shot per person. We encouraged him to put it down. He looked at it awhile and finally said, okay. He downed it. turned red in the face, picked up his flight bag. threw it over his shoulder and fell flat on his back. I helped him up and he staggered to the waiting truck with me. He was almost asleep when we hit our cent area. I never saw him or Lieutenants Schumacher and Wollgast again. I had completed 1.050 hours and, as promised by the inspector general's office, replacements were coming in daily.

    On March 17, along with several other crewmen, we were sent to a village called Pathalapam, a tea plantation in the Northern Assam valley, for rest leave. We went hunting for deer and small birds that looked like doves although they were not. These birds became dinner but the deer were elusive and there was no venison while I was there. We just hung around, played cards, drove around jungle roads looking for game, and really rested, because there was no being awakened in the middle of the night for another wild ride. I thought that we would go back to more flying after this respite but upon returning from Pathalapam on March 23, I found that orders had been cut for us to return to the states. Our trips over the Hump were going to be only a memory. I had completed 42 flights on the Hump, two were aborted and forced a return before we reached the halfway point. I had crossed the Hump 80 times.

    I had previously been awarded the Air Medal on February 17, 1945, and over the fourteen month period participated in three battle areas: Central Burma, India-Burma, and China and was awarded a battle star for each one. President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Air Transport Command and the entire unit was awarded a Presidential Citation called a Distinguished Unit Badge.



THE LONG WAY HOME

    Time was the only hold now. Our return shipping out date was set for the next available airplane going that way. We packed and checked and waited and finally the call came to report to "headquarters" to make sure all was in order.

    As we went down the line to be processed out, the last person, Sergeant Charles Player, whom I had never seen before, was checking our pay status. Sergeant Player looked at me and said, "I see you are from Johnstown, Pennsylvania." "Yes," I replied. "Do you know a girl there named Charlotte Moran. I write to her." "No, I do not." "Do you know where Bond Street is in Johnstown?" "No, I do not." "Well, I'll give you her name and address. When you get home, call her and tell her Charley Player says hello."

    He wrote the name and address on a piece of paper and I put it in my wallet. Sergeant Player checked through my records and told me there was one last hold. "You can't leave here until you get your picture taken," he said. "What picture?" I asked. "You have earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and it was never presented. Colonel Barksdale won't let you leave without doing that. No one leaves without that," he said.

    I said that I didn't care if I had a presentation or not. Player said to wait where I was and soon a GI with a large camera shows up and in comes Colonel Barksdale, the Base Commanding Officer. He is carrying a DFC ribbon and medal. He has me go with him outside the administration building, a one story bamboo, thatched roof building. I stand at attention while he holds the medal in a pinning position and the picture is taken. He wishes me luck, shakes my hand and goes back into the building and that was that.


Colonel William Barksdale, Commanding Officer of the 1330th Army Air Force Base Unit,
Jorhat, India, awarding the Distinguished Flying Cross to Corporal Douglas Devaux.
March 31, 1945.

    The picture and my name engraved DFC caught up with me two months later at my stateside Air Force Base Unit in Long Beach, California. I have always been grateful to Colonel Barksdale for this. The picture taking was an insistence of his that all of the members of his unit would have evidence of presentation.

    We left the next day, April 1, 1945, and flew to Karachi to begin the return to the United States. We waited for a plane going to Africa and we departed Karachi for Cairo, Egypt on April 6, 1945. It took until April 22, 1945, to get back to the States. Short flights through to Bahrain Island, Cairo, and Tripoli were made. We would ride to the next air base and hopefully be put on the next plane out. I remember seeing a metal airplane hanger in Tripoli so riddled with bullet holes that it looked like a sieve, a reminder of the defeat of Rommel and the German army in North Africa. We took off from Tripoli on the final North Africa leg to Casablanca. We had a bit of "hump" type weather crossing the Atlas Mountains in Western Africa. The plane bumped and jumped in a heavy storm and I thought that we were just destined not to get back home. Finally the storm cleared out and we safely reached Casablanca. We were there for about two weeks. Finally we were boarded on a regular airline C-47 with real seats, flew to the Azores, a hop to Newfoundland, and from there to New York's LaGuardia Airport where the Red Cross welcomed us with a pint of deliciously rich milk. Overseas milk was powdered milk that was like drinking wet chalk. Real milk, what a sweet, cool taste, the first I had tasted since leaving Florida. What a happy group we were. We had made it after all. We were received in a large building to be checked by the medics before going further.

    It was late Sunday afternoon and we were loaded up and trucked to nearby Fort Totten, Long Island, just in time for the end of Sunday evening mess. It was the standard Army Sunday supper of cold cuts and potato salad. After the overseas fare of powdered foods, K rations, C rations, water buffalo, and no variety, that Sunday supper was the greatest food we had eaten in many a month. It was delicious.

    Next day I was in New York City. I treated myself to a barbershop haircut and a shave with the hot towel treatment. I headed for Grand Central Station, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and home to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and my family: my mother, father, brother, grandmother, and hopefully my sister would visit as she had married and left the homestead. I had a three week furlough to enjoy before reporting to the Air Force Base at Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, which is now the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.



JORHAT SPILL OVER

Doug's Story:
    I had been home for a couple of days. It was April 25, 1945. All of my former boy friends were gone to war and I didn't know where the girls had gone. I met a high school friend, Zandy Ogle, home on furlough from submarine duty. We were sitting on his front steps on Luzeme Street. Zandy said he had a date that evening with a girl from Somerset. Why don't I get a date and go along. I said I don't know any girls to call since I have been away so long. Zandy said, "You ought to be able to think of someone." I remembered that Charley Player from Jorhat had given me the name of someone in Johnstown to call. I looked in my wallet for the note that Charley had given me. "This might be someone," I said reading the note, "Her name is Charlotte Moran and she lives at 208 Bond Street. I don't know where that is but I'll call her. I'll let you know what she says." We discussed what she might be like, looks, good or bad and laughed about what blind dates might bring. I called her later that day, introduced myself with the line that Charley Player wanted me to say hello and would she like to go out on a date tonight. She said she had heard of me from her friend, Charley Player, and yes she would go out with me. We doubled with Zandy and his girl. I think we went to a local night club and danced a little. She was pretty and nice and I asked if she might like to see a movie the next evening. Yes, she would. Our next date was alone. We went to see the movie, National Velvet, and after that to Castle Farms, a gathering place for young people to dance and snack. We discovered that we danced exceptionally well together. The popular songs that night were "Candy" and "The Jersey Bounce."

Charlotte's Story:
    In late 1944, I don't remember the exact month, Dorothy Wilson, a girl friend, and I decided that since we had never really been out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania we would like to see New York. We decided to go there on a vacation. We took the train from Johnstown to Grand Central Station in New York. We had made a reservation to stay at the Taft Hotel. We both worked at Glosser Brothers Department Store in Johnstown and just wanted to see the sights. We did the first thing tourists do, visit the Statue of Liberty. We walked part way up the stairs, and sat on a convenient bench. Two soldiers, also sightseeing approached us. We talked, had a coke, and made plans to have dinner together that evening. Dot and I returned to the Taft and shortly received a phone call from one of the soldiers. They were sorry but they couldn't see us tonight, they had to cancel the date because they were being shipped out. After five days in New York, we returned to Johnstown and back to work. Several months later I received a letter from India from the soldier I had met at the Statue of Liberty, Charley Player. He told me that he had noticed in a list of names he was processing that one of them was a Douglas Devaux and he was from Johnstown and did I know him. I did not. He wrote that this soldier had been awarded a
Douglas and Charlotte (Moran) Devaux      
Long Beach Air Force Base, June, 1945      
Distinguished Flying Cross. My mother and I talked about this and decided that I should call this soldier's wife or mother with this news. as you did things like that during the war. Almost every couple of houses had the familiar "little flag" hanging in the window denoting that they had someone in the service. It turned out to be the soldier's mother and she was delighted at the news, as she hadn't heard from him in five weeks. She was very grateful. Now it is April 1945 and I received a phone call; "This is Douglas Devaux. You don't know me but Charley Player said that he writes to you and I am calling to say hello for him," the caller said. We talked further and I mentioned that I had talked with his mother and he thanked me for that. He asked if I would go out with him and I said yes. He asked, where is Bond Street and directions were given. Later that evening, I answered a knock on the door. A soldier stood there. He said, "Hello, I'm Douglas Devaux" and I said, "You look just like my brother, who is in the Navy." I called my mother and dad to come and see and my dad said, upon entering our living room, "Lord God, you look just like Ken", as he pointed to a sailor's picture of my brother, Ken, that was displayed on the top of our radio. The resemblance was uncanny.

Aftermath
    The rest of the furlough was a whirlwind time getting to know each other and falling helplessly in love. From Coraopolis, Doug received orders and was assigned to the Air Force Base in Long Beach, California. On June 11, Charlotte began a five-day trip on the train to be with him. They were married on June 18, 1945 in the Army Air Force Base Chapel in Long Beach, California, by the Catholic Chaplain, Reverend Martin T. O'Gara.




Names in my Notebook and Memory

    With one exception, James Warrick, I have had no contact since the war with any of the following fellow Radio Operators whose names and home towns are part of a little log book that I kept of each flight in the CBI.

Gerald WeeckTacoma, Washington
Melvin WeberNew Orleans, Louisiana
John ZuckPearl River, New York
Nick GonzalezLos Angeles, California
James NelsonMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Emmett FrederickLakspur, California
James WarrickCanonsburg, Pennsylvania
Kenneth MichaelOtis Orchard, Washington
Mike ArditoPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

    I have great memories of the following soldiers who were classmates at the Pan American Transition Training School in Miami. We were all shipped overseas together and were sent to different air bases in the CBI after arriving in Karachi: Cyril Hicks of Ida, Louisiana, Gerald Hoch from Columbia, Pennsylvania, my roommate in the Miami Barracks, Julian Czeczotka from Pachang, Connecticut, and Gordon Johnston, whose home town I didnít know. I did meet Gerald in Chabua one afternoon and we had a swap of experiences to talk about. Cyril and Gordon flew the Hump out of Tezpur. Julianís name is on a set of yellowed orders that I still have that awarded him a DFC in February, 1945.


    I have flashes of personal memories of these CBI airmen who lost their lives in defense of their country and were unable to return and enjoy the fruits of freedom that we have gratefully received through their sacrifice. I can still hear their voices and their laughter:
Loyal Marrs             Seymour "Cy" Schipior             Clarence Stowers


    Finally, I also dedicate this to my best friend through grade school and high school, Howard "Bud" James, an enlisted infantry officer during World War II, who was recalled for the Korean Conflict and was killed in action in North Korea. Bud was awarded the Silver Star for rear guard action in saving the lives of his squad members. May we always remember. I was fortunate.









 Doug's Rescue Flag - CLICK TO VIEW ENLARGED

CHINA, BURMA, AND INDIA
FROM THE BACK SEAT


By Douglas F. Devaux


 TOP OF PAGE       PREFACE       DEDICATION       TO THE LAND OF MYSTERY       FLIGHT TRAINING       INDIA BY AIR 

 THE HIGH HUMP AND CHINA       THE LONG WAY HOME       JORHAT SPILL OVER       NOTEBOOK AND MEMORIES 

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