Letter excerpts from fellow crewmen who flew The Hump in WWII

1.    I was assigned to Kurmitola for a few days before transfer to Tezgaon (as a C-109 pilot). Even the thought of "sitting in a C-109 on the ground" brings tears to my eyes and makes the body shake a bit! Never had any nightmares but I don't know why. Plenty of "close calls." --- Obviously radiomen were essential and all "good guys." The Loran was of little or no help and the two direction finders on C-109s often pointed in opposite directions when tuned to the same beacon. I had plenty of "spooky experiences" but will skip them at least for now and but never had to call for a QDM, but still scared the hell out of my crew several times. --- Never liked Hump flying as a 'truck driver type." --- I relive the "Hump" every day and it is good to hear from guys like you who also have fond recollections of those rather harrowing days.

2.    He told us, among other things, how they would catch monkeys in India - by putting rice in hollow coconuts.

3.    I do recall landing on a muddy strip along the river bank and worrying about whether we would get the "bird" out of the mud for take-off. --- I do recall Liuchow (I think that it was often referred to as "no chow." It seems that I did fly into there a couple of times but I can only clearly remember doing it once. However I don't recall sleeping in a tent. It seems to me we were in some sort of Chinese building. One of the few photographs that I took while I was overseas was one of a Chinese soldier standing next to what I recall as a Japanese airplane that was badly damaged. This was at Liuchow. One other recollection was of being at the airport and seeing a C-46 sliding down the runway on its belly. I also remember the strange -looking mountains (hills) there. I don't remember ever seeing any like that anywhere else before or after.---I never saw a chicken while I was in China but there were sure a lot of eggs. I think I remember that they pronounced the word as "egguses." I ate a lot of times in the old C-46 line shack in Kunming and I don't remember having anything but "egguses and rice."

4.    Were you by chance out over the Hump on Jan. 5, 1945 the night we lost so many airplanes due to a horrendous headwind on our return flight to India? I was, and there (were) so many MAYDAYS, according to one report that I saw, we lost 100 airplanes that night, that of course was from all the bases.

5.    I made many trips into Chengtu, and disliked every one, a miserable place to operate into. I came very close to disaster there in a C-109 loaded with ice, poor visibility, etc. I have no idea how many trips I made over the Hump, most of them in C-54s thank heavens. I despised the C-109. --- I had a radioman, whose name I have forgotten, that flew with me most of the time and he was a good one. On one trip to Chengtu in a C-109 the cockpit filled up with smoke and we were just before bailing out, at night somewhere south of Chengtu. He, at the last minute, found the source of some burning wires and saved us all.

6.    I was a Crew Chief engineer, but did most of my flight time in C-46s. At the beginning of the monsoon season, quite a few of the engineers liked to take a breather and were looking for some one to take their place. I had been assigned to this old D Model B-24 that had fuel leaks in the bomb bay. We had fun on test hops looking for evidence of leakage but no luck. It turned out that on its last trip the engineer was still trying to talk me into grabbing a chute & going along. It blew up on the take-off in the Chengtu area, no survivors. --- Do you remember the hard stands towards the river? A friend got in the pilot's seat of this C-54, while the crew was devouring those famous "flied eggs," & accidently kicked off the brakes. The plane started rolling backward, toward the river. I got on the hand pump to get the hydraulic pressure up & he still couldn't get the brakes locked. I suggested we switch places & finally by releasing the toe brakes as the parking brake lever reached the lock position, they held. It was a steep dropoff to the river if it had rolled much farther. Most guys were so used to placing the wheel chocks in front, they never gave much thought to the steep slope. We would probably have served a long stretch in Leavenworth if we had dunked the plane in the river. It was really amazing how much that river used to rise and fall. The Natives would build their shacks near the water & they would get washed away. They would turn around & rebuild.

7.     We called it North Malir, probably because "H" area was in the north, but I've also heard it called "New" Malir. Whatever it was called, you describe it very accurately. At least the small portion where we stayed to train Chinese B-25 & P-40 pilots & crews in bombing & gunnery in the Sind desert and offshore in the Arabian sea. The barracks were adobe wiith dirt floors and tile roofs. There were lister bags of chlorinated water hanging at strategic points in our area, and made it through the sagebrush to the movie theater only once. I didn't get to see the movie though. After they played "God Save the Queen". some drunken GI jumped up and yelled, "To Hell with the Queen!" A riot ensued and I made a hasty retreat to the exit.

Yes, all the barracks had a long porch running the length of the building. We had flashlights, but no batteries! Our 1st. Sgt. had a little pen light he used to call roll at 4:30 or some other ungodly hour, but it didn't shine far enough to see us in the dark, so we drew lots each evening to determine who would go out and answer roll call in different voices while the remainder slept through it. We did this for about a month before he got wise. Maybe he got some batteries for his GI flashlight, I forget. What I DO remember was HOT, very dry, and extremely dusty, and the corned willy and British biscuits hard as a rock, day after day.

Christmas 1944 came and went just like any other day for us. No turkey dinner, work from dawn to dusk as usual, and I never saw a chapel or Red Cross building all the time I was there. There were reportedly a Polish internment camp, and a federal prison at Malir? I do remember the old dirigible hangar at Karachi and rumors that the British built Malir as a last stand to defend India if the Germans came over from North Africa. But "Monty's" troops and a lot of help from us Yanks took care of that matter. --- I dug out an old 14th AF drawing of the three Kweilin bases that I'd like to tell you about. In the modern map it seems that Erh Tong (Where we were based until the Japs drove us out) was selected to be Kweilin's airport. This seems strange to me because it was the smallest of the three, nestled among sugarloaf hills. Yang Ton, to the west, although further from the city, was a much larger facility that easily accommodated the B-24s. Li Chia-Chen, to the east of Erh Tong, had the newest, widest, and longest runway built for B-29s returning from raids on Japan to land on when low on gas. To my knowledge, no B-29 ever landed on it. We had some P-40s that used it for a while but the facilities were never developed and it was treated as an auxiliary base. A lot of our tax dollars were poured into that runway. Local politics must have been involved the decision to use Erh Tong for the city's airport.

8.   When I first looked at your letter, I saw us both sitting in your tent at Kurmitola one evening when I was on guard duty - you were giving me the words to "Begin the Beguine."

9.   My favorite spot was the diner in Kunming, which served eggs & fresh water buffalo. All that pure oxygen took the pounds off!

10.   I think all my flights were delivering 100 octane gasoline to China in 55 gal. drums. There were no doors or windows in the plane because of the gasoline fumes would explode so we wore heavy sheepskin parkas in the plane when we went over the Hump at the top. (at 36000 to 39000 ft.)

When we took off from India (Assam Valley - Mohanbari) the temperature was hot (up to 100 degrees at times) so when we took off we wore shorts and a T-shirt and as the plane was going up, we took turns (pilot, co-pilot and radio operator) put more clothes on and when we passed over the Hump into China, we again took turns taking clothes off. Besides monitoring the radio - it was our duty to check the gasoline drums for leaks. The exhausts of the engines were right by a window and if the plane would fill up with gasoline fumes - Boom.

At 36 to 39000 feet - some of the gasoline drums would pressure leak, we would roll it and kick it out the door of the plane. [Note: I'm sure the writer meant altitude readings of 26 to 29000 feet, as the type of planes used then were incapable of reaching the higher listed altitudes. RAS]

11.   As for excitement: Caught fire over Burma, one bullet hole in C-54 from "Betty" on return trip, lost an engine while delivering a Chinese General and 125 of his people to the surrender at Shanghai - When I checked the engines before leaving for home all 4 checked out -

12.   Three crack ups added some spice to my Hump experience. The first time we lost #3 engine on take off from A-3 [Chengtu] and couldn't crank the gear up and the nose wheel wouldn't lock when we cranked it down. When we landed it collapsed and we tore the plane up but no one was hurt. The next time we blew the nose wheel tire on take off and tore up another plane but no one was hurt. The third time we landed on the last one third of the runway at Chanyi and found out we had no brakes and buried the nose all the way to the cabin in a dirt bank. Again no one was hurt.

13.   Recently I visited an airpark near here where there are four operating DC-3s. I sniffed around in one, sat in the pilot's seat, thought about those days when we were young and carefree. But if anyone were to tell me now that I should crew that wonderful bird across the Himalaya Mountains, I would tell them they must be INSANE!

14.   Took representatives to arbitrate surrender of Japs in Shanghai. Japs wouldn't let them off plane for 3 hours till they got official word that war was over. Japs had brand new cars - Lincolns?




16.   [From another Frank:]1945----that was a long time ago.  I just returned home (to Erie,PA) from Injaa and had thanksgiving at home and felt a little cold because I had to adjust to this climate again. I hope you and family had a nice Thanksgiving.           Frank

17.   [Glenn Morris sent me this letter which he had received from a friend ] WAR STORY

Flying over the "Hump" from Chabua, India to Kunming, China May 1945.

We were a crew of three taking off from Chabua in a C-46 "Dumbo" headed for Kunming, China. It was a typical monsoon weather buildup day with lots of high cumulus thunder clouds in the eastern sky. Weather predictions were not the best to look forward to.

Almost as soon as we had cleared the radio tower operating area we indeed were in the soup. And it stayed that way for the rest of the time we were in he air. Over the Burma/China border (we were in solid cloud fog with rain, sleet, high head winds) one of the engines began to sputter. It was a common failure of the C-46 to develop ice in the carburetor intake during such flying weather, so this was anticipated. There is a warming system to keep the ice from becoming a problem. BUT sometimes it is too late or develops ice if not applied at the right time. Well, the right time was now for the sputtering engine quit running. The pilots feathered it to help the slip stream.

Since the weather was so bad the pilot decided to start trying to dump the cargo which consisted of thirty two fifty gallon drums of oil and some smaller stuff. Sure! At this point I had just finished trying to contact Kunming Radio. The radio waves were full of static so could not contact them. I was successful in contacting another aircraft with our position and weather conditions and that one engine was gone. Because of the static even that message was very difficult to get through. In just a few minutes the other engine started sputtering and the pilot said lets get out. I started calling MAYDAY giving our last known position but never could hear any response - although we heard later that Paoshan (China) radio picked it up. We were supposed to be flying at 15,500 feet to be above the mountains but when I last saw the altimeter it (read) 11,500 and dropping fast.

All three of us bailed out okay. We were in the soup of course so had no idea what to expect next like slamming into a mountain top or trees or whatever. After an eternity I came out of the clouds and could see a small village area in mountain foothills below me. When I landed I broke my left foot - the co-pilot hit on his tail bone almost really damaging his back - the pilot made a safe landing. The villagers scampered to come to the aid of each of us. We were separated somewhat because of the terrain but they got us together in the loft of some sort of building which was close to a small school.

The people were real great. They gave us small cups of saki to sip on to help with the pain and they put saki in a bowl then lit it and lighly rubbed my ankle and foot and the copilot's sore lower back. We were able to correspond by drawing pictures, gesturing or good old talking louder because they couldn't understand us. When it came to food time they boiled water to drink, boiled eggs and rice to eat. It was apparent they knew what to do. The U.S. had years earlier dropped leaflets and passed the word (however) to the jungle people, Burmese and Chinese that any help they gave American flyers would earn them salt, blankets, food or what ever in return. We were so lucky to have gone down in the mountainous area and not in the Burma jungle where there were some Nahga head hunters. Many stories came to us about some that did.

About two days later the weather cleared enough to see a plane or two in the distance. Later we found these were some of the search plane efforts. After four days we were feeling much better. Early that morning the Chinese brought by some donkeys to ride on and one to pull a drag with the co-pilot on it since his lower back was still hurting. I have no idea how far it was but in the late afternoon we had come to a small segment of the Ledo Burma road where a search crew of GI's came by in a jeep and drove us to their camp. It was an Army road construction encampment area.

Glenn, this is so much like the stories in the "Hump" article you sent me. The Himalayas are strewn with any number of items of cargo and many, many planes that went down. Although the C-46 had its faults I am so glad that I didn't end up in the C-109 which was a B-14 converted to one big gasoline tank. We called them C-1 o booms for the obvious reason. Once I saw one flying over Chabua headed for the mountain range when suddenly there was a big flash of fire - they were gone...

I am now reading a book by Andy Rooney entitled My War. In it he covers the whole European thing writing for the GI newspaper Stars and Stripes. It is quite interesting. Like the article you sent me I could just about relive the experiences while reading his story. He actually was in Chabua when I was there but of course I didn't see him or even know who he was then.