My mother’s brother served in WWII in the Army Air Corps (U.S. Air Force) in the China-Burma-India Theater. He used to tell me stories about his adventures during the war. I have started a short story based on some of my recollection of his stories -keep in mind that I was in about the 3rd to 5th grade when I heard the stories so there is a whole lot of gap filling going on now.
Anyway – here’s a short piece of the story – let me know if it sounds interesting.
A Walk Out of Burma –
A Short Story Based on a Real-life Adventure
During World War II in the China-Burma-India Theater of War
He was six feet, six inches tall. Gangly and a little clumsy, like a young dog that hadn’t quite grown into its feet. Of course, they called him Shorty. Shorty was a teletype operator; they were the other guys of the U.S. Army Air Corps Air Transport Command. Many of them, including Shorty, had been in India since late in 1941.
According to their official papers, they were there in support of the U.S. lend-lease program to Britain and China. Britain was at war with Japan in defense of her interests in India and the U.S., which was not yet a combatant, was providing the British and Chinese with materiel support. The Air Corp guys were supposed to keep the paperwork straight and see that the Brits got what was intended for them. The unit was also responsible for the materiel that was going over the Hump to China in support of the Chinese in their battle against Japan.
The Hump; the flight paths over the Himalayas from Chabua Airfield in Assam, India to Kunming on the Yunnan Plateau in China. The routes by which the U.S. provided materiel to China were fraught with danger; bad weather, extremely high mountain peaks, and Japanese fighter aircraft. Many C-46 cargo planes did not complete the trip. Some were lost going to China, others on the return trip. The route to China went over northern Burma with its dense forests, rugged mountains, and Japanese troops.
Shorty’s adventure began as a lark. He and several of his buddies had been drinking beer, chewing betel in the enlisted men’s mess and recreation tent, and talking about the glories of various exotic women. They had heard that the Chinese women in Yunnan were very fond of Yankee G.I.’s. Shorty and two other guys took a dare to hop a transport over the Hump and bring back a report on the ladies of Yunnan.
The three men; Shorty, Sam Williams, and Red Farley; hopped a cargo flight over the hump. To pull it off, they volunteered to help unload the plane in China as their ticket to fly. Along with the three adventurers, were three crew members; Captain Richard Hoffnagle, the pilot; Lieutenant Bill McGuire, the copilot; and Lieutenant Charlie Sampson, the navigator/radio operator. As was usual on those flights, the C-46 transport with the six men aboard was at maximum load capacity, four tons of fuel, food, and munitions.
The takeoff from Chabua was pretty routine; the heavily loaded plane used the entire runway to get airborne. The flight over the Hump to China was uneventful. It was midsummer and the monsoons hadn’t started yet, so they had clear weather. There were no Japanese Zeros up from Myitkyina as they passed over Sumprabum. It was, as always, cold going over the 16,000-foot peaks of the Himalayas in an unheated aircraft. Shorty, Sam, and Red groused among themselves back in the cargo area, but with their flight jackets, they didn’t suffer excessively. The airfield at Kunming was at an elevation greater than 6,000 feet and they needed the entire runway to come to a stop. What the adventurers didn’t know was that there was only a 60-minute layover at Kunming. As soon as they had emptied the transport and the flight crew had checked in at the operations office, they were airborne again. So much for their plan to experience the women of Yunnan. The three GI’s groused and grumbled about the situation, but their only option was to stay at Kunming until a flight back across the Hump needed crew. No one knew when that might be and the three men were due back at their posts in Chabua in about 36 hours.