WILLIAM N. DAWSON

MY TRIP OVER THE LEDO ROAD  
By William N. Dawson   

    A first-hand account of the first ATC convoy over the recently completed road to China in 1945.  Unable to send letters home while enroute, William Dawson wrote this diary of his experiences in the form of a letter home in a book he kept with him, and later sent home from China.

This is the story from day to day on probably the most exciting trip of my life.

FIRST DAY
  We were assigned trucks, and every man that could drive a car had to drive a truck, and some that never had driven, had to drive. It's quite a job driving a truck over such roads and in such conditions. The first day we drove about 25 miles and loaded all the trucks on flat cars. That is where I picked up the little 6 year old Indian boy. He was going all the way to China with me.
  The first night I set a bunk up in the truck and the boy slept in the cab. It was a very rough ride and I didn't sleep all night. It was still better though then the trip from Bombay to Calcutta.

SECOND DAY
  We arrived late the next night at the end of the railroad and drove to a motor camp. Nothing much happened, but one fellow took the side off a flat car. We crawled in our trucks to get some sleep. It sure was nice to have the truck still. I got a good night's sleep.

THIRD DAY
  We stayed at camp all day. My little Indian boy washed all my clothes and cleaned my truck. We had a place to go swimming and get cleaned up.

FOURTH DAY
  Things began to happen. We all started out. I was the second truck from the end of the convoy. In back of me was Tilton and Thena. Tilton fixed it up so I could be in front of him. We told the officer that I was a good tire man. Well, the trip started out very nice. We went over hills and more hills, valleys and bridges. I think there were 600 hairpin turns in 20 miles. We got over that OK, but then the fun started. The first thing that happened was that one of the officers smashed a jeep in a tree. They all got hurt. The Sergeant who was riding with him turned 5 somersaults in the air. We got going again and one thing after another started to happen.
  Parts started to fall off the trucks and we had a busy time fixing them. That wasn't so bad until a truck jumped a bridge and dropped 20 feet below into the river. It sure was a mess. The boys didn't get hurt. One jumped out and the other went with the truck and had to swim out. We worked 3 hours to get it out of the water and had to tow the truck and the jeep the rest of the way.
  Things were pretty good, only the roads were dusty and at times we couldn't see a thing. I ate dirt all the way; it sure was rough. Anyway, we landed that night and brought all the trucks in. The mechanic asked me if I would help him fix the truck that fell in the water. I told him I could fix generators, starters and carburetors. We started to work. We didn't know if we could get it going or not. We made bets that we would. We worked way after dark and sure enough we got it going and almost everything on it worked. All the boys gave us a hand and said we did good. I guess the Lieutenant took notice and I got a lot of credit. The Lieutenant had never noticed me before that. From then on, I didn't pull any details, which consisted of guard duty at night and K.P. Now I ride with the mechanic and Tilton; that is, in front of these trucks, and if anybody falls out, Tilton stops and fixes it and I keep going. If anybody else falls out, I stop and do what I can until Tilton and The mechanic catches up to the convoy.

FIFTH DAY
  We started out again, the roads got worse. At times we couldn't see a thing and had to drive with a respirator and goggles. We came to a big river and had to load on a ferry to get across. It took a lot of time and we got in camp late and ate chow in the dark. We went up and got tea at a tea canteen. We stopped at a small town just before we got on the ferry and saw some British soldiers and a little bear and leopard. They were cute as hell. I didn't care much for the leopard, but the little cub crawled up our legs and we played with him. I guess that's all for today.

SIXTH DAY
  We only had 80 miles to go, so we got a late start. Oh, yes, I had to get up early and take the wheels off the truck that went in the river because they had sand and water in them. Again the Lieutenant thought we were pretty good because we got up so early and started to work.
  We saw a lot of elephants. They use them for work. Boy, they are big fellows. There was one little one following its mother. It was so cute. I would have loved to have brought it home. By the way, they have split our outfit into three sections because it was too big.
  The roads were better, and we got to camp at 12 o'clock. The camp was lousy, but it had a PX and we had coffee and cold drinks. I cut my first head of hair. One of the sergeants said he would cut mine if I would cut his. It turned out so good, that I cut Tilton's hair. We all needed the hair cuts badly. The camp wouldn't let us sleep in our trucks because they were afraid we would steal things out of other trucks, (which no doubt we would). It got too late and dark before I decided to take my bed-clothes over to a tent, and I decided to sleep in my truck. I sneaked in and put the back on so nobody would see me. I did not get caught.

SEVENTH DAY
  We started out early because we had a long trip. The roads were very bad, dusty and we couldn't see a thing. We were pretty lucky and only had a couple of trucks bang into the back of each other, and a few of them caught fire because something in the motor came loose. We got the fires out. We came into the best camp so far. It was an Air Corp outfit, and of course we have the best of everything. We had a very nice shower and good chow. I think the chow has been swell under these conditions. I got a nice sleep that night.

GOODE, TILTON, ME, UNDERHILLE AND JES GRAY IN THE SHOWER ROOM.

EIGHTH DAY
  It's been another tough day, the worse day I have ever seen. Tilton didn't have a windshield and you should have seen him! The poor guy! He was dirty from head to foot. Where I wore my glasses was the only clean place on me. I was so tired from bumping around and sore all over. I'll sure jiggle the weight off me. By the time I get home, I won't be able to ----- (deleted). My coveralls are hanging on me now. But let me tell you, about 2 hours after we got there, they had a big bunch of mail from you. It was wonderful! It made me homesick and sort of choked up.
  We couldn't take a shower unless we pumped water up in a tank. I just washed out of my helmet - too tired. That's all for today.

NINTH DAY
  (Monday) We are staying here to rest up until Wednesday morning. We aren't doing much except looking over our trucks and they have a bunch of Indians to service them. I read your letters over again. Every time I read them I find parts I missed and they get better all the time.

TENTH DAY
  Today was like yesterday. We had to load every bit of gasoline we could get on our trucks, so now I don't have a place to sleep. We took a truck and went to a PX about 7 miles away and got some things.

ELEVENTH DAY
  We got up about 4:30 a.m. and pulled out. It was another dirty rough day. It took us 7 hours to go 50 miles. We had a lot of flat tires and a little motor trouble. The motors are so dirty that you can hardly tell what they are, but they keep running. I guess it is because they were made by General Motors. I can't see how they hold together. I very seldom sit on the seat, I bounce around so much. Now, let me tell you: we are at Ledo, the beginning of the worse part, only I can't see how it can get any worse. The camp itself isn't too bad, nice chow, but no showers. I guess my helmet will be my bath tub now. Ha Ha.
  You should see the mountains, they are beautiful. There is snow on top of them. They are so big! It is hot as hell right now.
  Well, tomorrow is the day. From the stories around, it's going to be rough. They are having trouble with Chinese bandits. They have captured a lot of men and equipment. They have killed plenty, too.
  Now for the big and best thing that happened today. I got swell letters from you, telling me you know I'm in India. I'm glad my letters are interesting to you. I keep yours in the cab so I can read them when we stop along the road. I have read them twice. I hope I'm able to send you this book, because I don't have a chance to write, and couldn't send them anyway. Good night and keep your fingers crossed from now on for me. We aren't far behind Jap lines. At Kunming we will be less than two hundred miles from the big battle.

TWELFTH DAY
  We are all lined up and ready to go. They split us again into three sections. I'm 23rd truck in my section, which is the last one. Tilton, Thena and I are the last trucks. We have one Jeep with a 50 gal. on it. They told us to carry our guns right where we can reach them. There are all kinds of Chinese hijackers and deserters. Cross your fingers!
  Later: We have gone 38 miles, and we are at the foot of Hell's Kitchen at a rest camp. The Hill ahead of us is 7½ miles up and 7½ miles down. It is the worse hill on the road. I wish you could see it. I never have seen anything like it in my life. Well, so far the roads have been fairly smooth, but dusty as hell. Remember how you got sick on the honeymoon from the curves? Well, if you were riding with me today, you sure would be sick. You come around a curve and you can't see a thing until you get right on top of it. I just snapped a picture of the foot of the hill. It's cloudy, and it may not turn out. Oh, if I only could wash and get cleaned up! I look a sight! I have a 5-day beard and am dirty from head to foot!
  Later: We made the big hill pretty fair. It is sure something to talk about. The scenery is beautiful. I wish you were here to see it. Ledo Road is sure one of the wonders of the world.

ON THE ROAD

  Well, now for the bad part. We lost three trucks today. One of them tipped over on its top. It was loaded with gasoline. It was very lucky; it didn't catch fire. The kid was lucky driving it. He only cut his lip and is pretty lame. We righted it up and towed it in. The rest of the trouble was burnt out clutches and valve trouble. I can't see how the trucks hold up under such pounding. Well, we are here all safe. Telton, Thena and myself didn't get in until 9:30 p.m. I didn't go much for the idea of being out on that road after dark. I carry a gun right in my lap. I had a good supper and slept under the tailgate of Tilton's truck. If it rains I'll have to crawl under the truck. Another day has gone. It took 12 hours to go 80 miles.

THIRTEENTH DAY
  We slept right on top of one of the most beautiful and tallest mountains. When I got up this morning it was cold. We are way up above the clouds. It seems so funny to look down at the clouds. It's like being in an airplane. When we had chow, a cloud rolled right in on us. Its the most beautiful sight you ever saw. To look up in the distance and see the road winding in the hills. I wonder what luck we will have today. It can't be much worse.
  Later: Here I am, sitting here waiting for a tow truck to come and take me in! Your old man just had a narrow escape. I'm still a little shaky as I write this. I was coming down one of the worse hills so far, and the truck got going a little too fast, and the brakes went out on it. So here I come with no brakes, and I run the truck sideways into a hill. It stopped me alright, and didn't hurt the truck. The Lieutenant said it was quick thinking on my part.
  I guess he didn't want me to feel too bad about it. I still feel bad though, because I named her Ruthie, after you, dear, and I wanted to take her over the hump. Maybe they can get it fixed in time so I can.
  Later: I feel better! Got Ruthie all fixed up and she's on the road again. We put on a new oil pan and pulled the front end out, and she's just as good as new. They told us each truck cost Uncle Sam 1/2 million dollars to get to China. Well, the road was very good after we got out of the hills, nice and straight and wide. We covered 98 miles and with all my troubles and everybody else's, I got in before dark. Tilton and I were traveling alone and we made 74 miles in two hours. It's nice traveling without the convoy. Now let me tell you. Tilton and I were barreling down the road just as fast as the old truck would go, and four Chinese tried to flag us down. One had a rifle. We just poured the gas to the trucks and boy, they got out of the way! I had my gun right in my lap. I still was a bit nervous after taking the bank!
  Well, I got in again, and had a nice swim and we stood around and told each other our experiences of the day. We saw a lot of wrecked Jap tanks, guns and what have you along the way. It wasn't very long ago that the Japs were here. There are graves along the roads where our boys died. They have a cross and the helmet atop.
GOODE AND WILSON, TOP ROW.
ME AND TILTON, BOTTOM ROW.

FOURTEENTH DAY
  This morning is very warm and muggy. There is a lot of swamp. I'm somewhere in Burma. We were there yesterday, but I didn't know it.
  While I was in the woods, I saw a lot of mortar shells. They really must have had plenty of action here. The shells were still good. I didn't take any because I didn't want to get blown up with all this gasoline on. They were too heavy anyway. We have 83 miles to go today. They say the road is good.
  Later: Well, today is very nice. Only one truck fell out for minor trouble. The road was like a highway back home only it is just gravel. I was dusty and dirty from head to foot. We are at a beautiful camp. There is a nice river here to go swimming and fishing. Some of the guys are going fishing. If I can find some hooks, I'm going too. We saw a lot of stuff that had been riddled by the Japs. There was a whole train completely wiped out. What they didn't burn was all shot up. We came across the longest pontoon bridge in the world today. The pontoons were all rubber. It sure was a wonderful sight. I took a picture of it; I had to take it on the bridge in my truck.
  We are the first A.T.C. outfit to go over the road into China. We are the 113th convoy. The whole road was only opened up 12 weeks ago. I guess they're really going to town now, getting the equipment over to China. We pass trucks, tanks, guns, etc, lined up for miles. The day ended beautifully. We got in at 11 a.m. so it gave us a little while to work on the trucks. I guess I turned out to be quite a mechanic. I fixed three sets of valves, and few other jobs. We got all done and went down to the river and washed clothes, and ourselves, and had a nice swim until we discovered snakes and crocodiles. Then we ate chow, and the Lieutenant let me and Thena go to town. Six months ago the Japs had the place. It was the 3rd largest city in Burma. We thought we would see some part of the town, but there was nothing but buildings blown down. It was a mess. You could hardly even recognize it had been a city. They took big bulldozers and just pushed everything over. It was nothing but bare ground. You should see the holes in the ground from bombing. There are trains after trains all riddled and burned to bits. It sure was an interesting thing.
  I guess I did a little brown nosing with the Lieutenant. I didn't used to like him, but he isn't a bad guy when you get to know him.

FIFTEENTH DAY
  Well, today has been the worse day so far. It was terrible. We had two trucks tipped over and one clutch out of another. I'll never forget seeing these trucks go over. One of them turned two flips in the air and landed wheels up, down a 75 foot cliff. I ran down the cliff to see if he was hurt, but again, just a few scratches. He said he'll never drive a truck on Ledo Road again. He was sure scared. Well, while I was down there, a truck from some other outfit came sailing up the hill the opposite way. The trucks were parked on the road and he was coming so fast he just took a swan dive over the cliff; a very nice sight. I've seen things like that in the movies, but never thought they could be real. I was at the bottom of the hill, when somebody hollered, "There goes another one". I got a quick look and ran like hell. I saw the truck coming, wheels falling off and everything else. I ran back to avoid getting hit, and went up to my knees in quick sand. We pulled the truck out and the kid was so scared he wouldn't drive the wreck, so I drove it in, 25 miles. It was just like riding horseback. I was so tired when I got in - last as usual. The trip was 112 miles for today, over some of the worse hills and turns that I ever saw, and hope not to see again. You look out the side of your truck, and there is a 1,000 ft. drop with about 8 inches on each side of your wheels. Not much, huh? Before this trip is over I'll be a nervous old grey man.
  It was a nerve-wracking experience. I didn't have any trouble today, I took pictures of the wrecks. There are foxholes and trenches all over the place. There were seven Japs, dead ones fully clothed. We didn't get too close on account of booby traps. In another trench there was just a foot and a leg - just bones left. We think it was a Jap because the foot was small. The country is sure shot up with only walls standing. The trees are all riddled, and there are tanks and trucks laying all over. The Burmese are a hell of a lot better people than the Indians. They are friendly, and they always give you a smile and wave at you. I guess they are glad to see us come. They are strung out up and down the roads, coming back to rebuild a home. They sure look worn out. They come down out of the hills. They are a lot better looking people than we've seen.
  Well, Its been a very busy exciting day, and your old man is dead tired. I guess I'll hit the hay. I know that there is a war on now and if the people back home could see how we live and the tough going we have, they wouldn't gripe and squawk about things that are rationed. If we get our outfits through without losing a man, we sure will get a lot of credit. We have lost some trucks, but our loses are very small. I'll have some great stories to tell you someday. Kiss the babies for me.

SIXTEENTH DAY
  Today has been more like a vacation. We've been riding the hills, looking at the country. The part of Burma that we went through today is beautiful. I'm so glad to get out of India. The Burmese are very clean people and they are more family-like. They have lots of kids. They stand by the road and wave at us and give a little cheer as you ride by. They are starting to build up their cities again. Everything has been burnt and blown to hell. I stopped in one place because I was driving alone and not with the convoy, and some little kids came out and gave me one of those Buddha and idols. I hope some of the fellows got some pictures of one of those temples. The Japs blew them all to hell, but there are still Buddha's left. They are all carved, wonderful work. The one I have has got the head blown off; the Japs just busted them up. It's only a little one about 4 inches high. It is carved out of marble.
  The Burmese look like a mixture between Chinese and Indian. I just can't explain how they look, but the women ain't hard to look at; that is, I mean an Indian woman you don't even want to look at, they are so horrible. For a can of C-rations, they give you most anything. I wish I was going to spend a little time here to look the place over and get some stuff.
  Well, for the road today. We went over one big range of mountains. The curves were terrific. My arms got so darned tired turning that wheel. I never held it still for over 4 hours, always turning it. It's quite nerve racking, looking down from the truck when you are on the edge of the road, about 8 inches and there is a drop of one to two thousand feet. The rest of the day the roads were very good, nice and smooth. I really enjoyed driving them. There were no accidents at all. One guy did hit a road scraper, and knocked his wheel out of line, and he can't steer the truck, but outside of that, and a little motor trouble and flat tires, everything went off fine. Well, I'll be so glad to get there and get my mail from you. Tomorrow we get into China. I miss you.

SEVENTEENTH DAY
  Last night was exciting as Hell! Yesterday one of our boys ran into a Chinese and pushed them off the road. We are supposed to have the right of way, and those Bastards always are cutting in. Anyway, they said they would be back. We all had our rifles in bed with us. I couldn't sleep for a long time. We had Tilton's machine gun ready and 50 Cal. all set. Anyway, at midnight there were 15 shots or so which went over our trucks. Nobody was hurt, and we couldn't see a thing. Then after that, a battle was going on in the distance. It looked like the 4th of July. It's my first real taste of war. These damn Chinese will sell us out for a nickel. You have to watch them every second. They ought to have kept the missionaries in the U.S.A. Some day after we get these damned Chinese educated, we are going to have trouble with them. They ain't much better than the Japs.
  Well, today we will be in China. It's only 7 miles to the border. They have shaken down all our stuff to see if we have too many cigarettes and beer, because you can get $8.00 a carton for them in China. We got 104 miles to go, and if they don't hold us up too long we should get there early.
  Later: We are stopped for some reason so I read a couple of your letters, and thought I would write a little about the day so far. We went over one of the highest ranges of mountains so far. The roads were good in the mountains, but they have been bad for the last 3 hours, and my arms are broke from steering. The Japs blew up every darn little bridge on the road, then there are shell holes all over the road. In some places the holes are terrific. When there is a bridge out you have to detour around it, and at times you drive through a creek up over your wheels. It's been raining like hell most of the day, and I am drenched. We are in China, and the country looks very good. It looks a lot like home - the trees and bushes do. The Chinese stand by the road and put their thumbs up in the air as we go by. I suppose it means good luck. Now let me tell you a little about money.
  So far today, I have got about $1000 in Chinese money. Their money isn't worth much. For $1.50, our money, you can get $750, their money. Breakfast costs about $1200. For a carton of Cigarettes, you can get about $7800 dollars, but don't get caught. I gave some biscuits, canned meat from my K-ration and 8 cigarettes and got $850. An Automobile sells for $2,000,000,000. How is that for talking big money? If you get a hotel room it costs around $3000. In American money that's about $3.00.
  I see what we are waiting for. Another bridge is out. We have been stuck now for 3/4 of an hour. If it hadn't rained it wouldn't have been so bad. It's muddy and some of the small trucks and command cars can't go through the mud, like we can. You just can't stick one of these 6x6's. You put the thing in front wheel drive and you can go up a 75 bank. It looks like we are going to be late again tonight.
  Later: We fixed the bridge the best we could and I was tired and cold and my back ached. It was really a tough day. Then to top it off, a half-ass corporal who is supposed to know a little about being a mechanic, was supposed to pull one of the trucks in that wouldn't run. We thought he would, but there he came up the road without it. We were so damn mad when he told us that he had left the truck and kid down the road 20 miles alone because he couldn't tow him in. He was just too damn lazy. Chow was pretty nearly ready, we had to go back 20 miles with a jeep and fix the truck and get it in. We didn't get back until 1 a.m., Tilton, Thena, and myself. They hadn't saved us any chow or coffee. That ticked me off again. We hadn't eaten since morning. One of the guards was making coffee, so he gave us some. I was damn cold; I got the chills. It really gets cold up in the mountains. We all crawled in Tilton's truck, and went to sleep.
  So the war is finally over, Hot Dog! Maybe it won't be so long and the Japs will give up. They know they haven't got a chance. They fired off guns, big ones, to celebrate last night. It was very pretty - like the 4th of July.

EIGHTEENTH DAY
  We didn't get up until about 8 a.m., had chow, and have been fixing trucks all morning. The first convoy is here and I guess the last is coming in today. We are going to lay over here for a few days because there are too many convoys on the road. About 20 men went back to build a bridge so the 3rd convoy can get through. We might get some mail here, we hope. I would so much like to hear from you.
  The Chinese are starving. When we empty our mess kits, they dig out the garbage. We don't bury a thing. They all have money, but it isn't worth the paper it's printed on. One of the boys in the first convoy saw a dead Jap's foot sticking up in the ground. We are having a tough time getting water because there are so many dead Japs in the rivers. We only get one canteen of water a day.
  We went through some Chinese villages. We gabbed with the people and had a good time, Tilton, Thena and me. The women kind of hide their kids, I guess they aren't used to us Americans. We traded some things for money. I have 8 thousand dollars so far. Ha Ha. It costs $1000 for 10 eggs, so you can see how much value it has.

NINETEENTH DAY
  I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night. I'm sleeping in Tilton's and Thena's truck. We lay awake for hours last night talking about our sweethearts back home. I got up at 5 a.m. We are leaving here tomorrow I think. We worked all morning on trucks to get them in shape. I didn't know I would end up being a mechanic. I hope I get something out of taking this trip. It is sure tough and as hard as everybody said it would be.
  We went down and had a nice sulphur bath this afternoon. It was built by the Japs. It's quite a rig. It's like a pool inside of a grass shack. The water is so hot they have to run cold water in the pool. If you sit on a certain part of the bottom, it will burn your seat. I know, I sat on the place. It's where the water comes up from the ground. It sure seemed nice to get cleaned up. I got all my clothes washed for 2 packs of cigarettes. I played some poker last night and lost 4 thousand dollars (Chinese Money). I still have 5 thousand left. We had more fun with Chinese money. If we lose, we say, "Oh well, we will have to sell some more C-rations." Ha Ha.

TIRED!

TWENTIETH DAY
  I'm awful happy this morning. The first thing just before we pulled out, they had a little mail and I got one letter from you. It took us 10 hours to go 82 miles today. The road was very rough and winding. We were up 7 or 8 thousand feet. It was the most beautiful sight I ever saw. I got a little nervous and had to stop to rest my nerves. You look down and on the edge there is a two thousand or better foot drop, and your wheels are only 2 or 3 feet from the edge. I can't explain how dangerous it is. If you went over, they just don't bother with you. We went for miles along a big gorge, and across a big extension bridge. When you go over it, it goes up and down, very peculiar feeling. Ha Ha. Tilton and I drove our trucks alone yesterday, and stopped when we wanted to, and took a few pictures. We had a lot of trouble with water in the gas. We had to drain two tanks completely. If the civilians could have seen that gas, running down the road, they probably would have taken a shammy and strained it. The rest of the troubles were: one fellow had hit a tank and broke a steering column. We worked until 10 p.m. getting it fixed. I was so tired I just pulled myself in bed. Its been awful cold at night, and I had to put three blankets over me.
  We are now on the old Burma Road. I can't see much difference in it. We are seeing Chinese women with bound feet. Some of them don't have any feet at all, just heels. They can hardly walk. It seems a crime to do it. The younger ones don't do it so much anymore.
  The farmers dress very much like China. They are poor and work in the rice paddies. It's quite a thing, how they grow rice. It has to be under water all the time. That's why they wait for monsoon rains to come. We haven't had too much of it yet. It's just starting. They wear those big round straw hats, just like in the story books.
  We have photographers who follow us and are taking pictures of us, and doing a story. It maybe we'll be in Life Magazine if the government lets them put it in. The reason they are here is, we are the first A.T.C. to come over with our big equipment. We have those big long 40 ft. trailers and vans. They have to take a hoist and pick the back end of them up to get them around curves. It's quite a sight.

TWENTY-FIRST DAY
  This has been one awful day. There were more trucks with motor trouble since we started. Two trucks burnt rods out and had to be towed in. One went in a ditch, but we got that one out OK. I didn't see Tilton and Thena all day. I got in about 9:30 p.m. and went up to see if we could find them, about midnight. There they come in, all pooped out dragging a truck. It sure was a tough day. It took us 12 to 16 hrs. to go 137 miles. So you can see the roads we have to go over. If it keeps up, it will shake me apart.
  We were up the highest elevation today. 9,120 ft. It was so high up that I froze. The hill wasn't too steep to go up, but the road kept winding around the hill and you would go 20 miles, but see the same place you were, over 1 hr. later. In places we came within 50 ft. from where we started. I got about $20,000 now! Ha Ha.
  Well, I've had chow and it's too late to wash, so I guess I'll hit the sack. I'm dirt from head to foot. Oh, well, what's the difference.

TWENTY-SECOND DAY
  We are going to lay over here today because some of the trucks are in bad shape. I'm going to be busy all day. It was so cold last night that I had to use 4 blankets. It seems good, though, but my blood is so thin I can't get used to it.
  Later: I worked until 3 p.m. and boy, I'm tired! We went down to the river and washed. It was cold as ice, but it made you all fresh. We had about 25 lbs. of clothes washed for 2 packs of cigarettes. The fatigues were all grease and oil.
ME AND KLINKENBURG IN CHINA
The rest were dirty from the clothes. All my stuff is a mess. We went to a road house and bought a steak and french fries. The steak was a little tough, but good for a change. The three of us paid $2,700. It got the bill and I'll send it to you. We bought a quart of rum for $3000. It wasn't hard to have enough to make me feel good! It was just like the Grille on Lyell Ave. We were singing and having a good time. I had a nice rest today. We have 165 miles to go tomorrow. I'll bet I'll be tired. I hope there isn't too much trouble.

TWENTY-THIRD DAY
  Oh, what a day! I'm so tired my stomach is weak. There was nothing but trouble all day. One thing after another fell off the trucks. The roads are so bad it just shakes the trucks apart. One tipped over and we lost some dolly wheels that came off a truck and it smashed all to hell. Tilton and I didn't have any dinner or supper. When we got in at 12:30 a.m. the mess was all over and there wasn't even any coffee. I sure raised a stink. I guess I woke the whole damned camp popping off. I guess you know how I am when I get mad. Anyway, we went to bed hungry and tired so tired I couldn't lift an arm. With all our bad luck. we still have some fun. I took all the cigarettes out of a carton and filled it with cardboard and stones. I sold it for $6000 Chinese money. Anyway, we got something out of them for all the stuff they steal off us. One of them swiped a gun. That's bad because they sell them to the Japs for four hundred American dollars. Early this morning a Chinese was going down the road carrying two baskets on the end of a stick, like you have seen in pictures. Anyway, I hit one basket and it spun him around like a top. I didn't do it on purpose, he just walked in front of my truck and of course I don't swerve the truck to miss them.

TWENTY-FOURTH DAY
  We woke up too late for breakfast this morning, so its been 30 hours without chow. I was so hungry I felt like throwing up. We were suppose to pull out at 7 a.m., but something is holding us up. It is 11 a.m. and we haven't left yet. The Lieutenant said if they don't let us go be noon we ain't going to go, because it is 114 miles. By the way, it's our last day if we leave, we will be in Kunming, I wonder what is in store for us when we get there? We had to take three radiators off this morning and solder them, and while we were working we asked the Lieutenant if we could take the Jeep to find a place to eat. He said, "Come on, I didn't eat either." So we went, the three of us and the Lieutenant and got a swell meal. Outside of being tired, I feel better. We sure get along swell with this Lieutenant. I guess he appreciates all we have been doing for him to get the trucks through. That's it for the morning. Now I'm going to get a cot out and go to sleep until we leave. In a couple of days, I'll be reading your mail, and I can start sending you letters again.
  Later: Well, we didn't leave today. I shot craps and did good. I seem to do pretty good with this Chinese money, but good old American money I don't do so good. We brought two quarts of rum and had a ripsnorter time. I went to bed early so I would be ready for tomorrow.

TWENTY-FIFTH DAY
  Well, dear, we arrived safe and sound at the end of our journey. I'm glad it's over and we are going to settle down for a while, or until the war is over and I come home. We got here about 9 p.m. and the Lieutenant got our mail for us. Oh, they were swell letters, and I'm going to start answering them soon. That's all I'm going to do for a week, every chance I get. We read letters way into the night.
  Well, the trip is over, and we didn't lose a man, which is a very good record. We didn't loose many trucks, either. From what I can gather, we are taking over the biggest and busiest airport in this theater. It sure is busy, planes land every two minutes. I have a big job ahead of me. They are 6 months behind on bomb-sites. We have to check and fix all the trucks before these damn Chinese will accept them. I'm getting so I hate them as bad as the Japs!
  The trip was good yesterday, but as usual very rough. We had a little motor trouble. One wheel came off on truck. Well darling, that's the end of a very exciting trip. I guess I came through because you said your prayers for us. Keep this book and sometime you can write a book on the Ledo Road.



  Some extra things you might like to know about our trip to India: We stopped in Australia for 2 days in the port of Melbourne. It was a very nice city, they say, but wouldn't let us get off the boat to go to town, because the last time too many fellows went AWOL and also a couple of them married girls in 3 days. They say it's a soldiers paradise.
  We were reported sunk twice by Jap ships. We were in the mess hall and it came over the radio from the Philippines. We all got a big laugh out of it because there we were on the deep blue sea, just as big as life.
  We did not travel in convoy: we went all alone. It was a new ship and one of the fastest afloat. We made the whole trip in 29 days which was 14,000 miles. We had a sub come up in back of us, but the destroyers escorted us, because these were very dangerous waters, but all was OK. We landed in Bombay, and took a very disgusting 4 day train ride. I can't tell you how bad it was. I lay on the floor for 2 nights. We landed at Calcutta. From there we went to a replacement camp to get ready for China. We were about 30 miles from Calcutta.
  I'm in the 14th Air Force, the Flying Tigers. I got a beautiful sheepskin flying suit today. The outside is all leather. I love it. Tilton calls me a big wheel. Just the ones who fly have them.


William Dawson's story shared by his daughter, Carol Hoffner.


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REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN THEATER OF WORLD WAR II



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