Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Flying the Hump (1942-1945) - July 3rd, 2003
Posted on 07/03/2003 12:04:19 AM PDT by SAMWolf
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In mid-December 1941, in the wake of Japan's massive land, sea, and air offensive in the Far East and its attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies had no doubts about the need to support China fully to keep it in the war. China's forces would tie down Japan on the mainland. China would provide bases for attacks on Japan. In any event, Gen. Claire Chennault's China Air Task Force, the "Flying Tigers," had to be supplied.
Burma Road to China was closed by the Japanese conquest of Southeast Asia (from ILN 1942/01/10)
Suddenly, in March 1942, supplying China became immeasurably harder. Japanese forces cut the Burma Road--the only overland path to China--and all land supply ceased.
The Allies came back with a response unprecedented in scope and magnitude: They began to muster planes and pilots to fly over the world's highest mountain range. The route over the Himalayas from India to Yunnanyi, Kunming, and other locations in China was immediately dubbed "the Hump" by those who flew it.
Though relatively short, the route is considered the most dangerous ever assigned to air transport. The reason is apparent from this description contained in the official Air Force history:
"The distance from Dinjan to Kunming is some 500 miles. The Brahmaputra valley floor lies ninety feet above sea level at Chabua, a spot near Dinjan where the principal American valley base was constructed. From this level, the mountain wall surrounding the valley rises quickly to 10,000 feet and higher.
"Flying eastward out of the valley, the pilot first topped the Patkai Range, then passed over the upper Chindwin River valley, bounded on the east by a 14,000- foot ridge, the Kumon Mountains. He then crossed a series of 14,000-16,000-foot ridges separated by the valleys of the West Irrawaddy, East Irrawaddy, Salween, and Mekong Rivers. The main 'Hump,' which gave its name to the whole awesome mountainous mass and to the air route which crossed it, was the Santsung Range, often 15,000 feet high, between the Salween and Mekong Rivers."
Pilots had to struggle to get their heavily laden planes to safe altitudes; there was always extreme turbulence, thunderstorms, and icing. On the ground, there was the heat and humidity and a monsoon season that, during a six-month period, poured 200 inches of rain on the bases in India and Burma.
If the US was to conquer such obstacles, it would have to build an organization to ensure the smooth flow of planes, people, and supplies. The seeds of such an organization already existed. On May 29, 1941--fifty years ago this spring--the US Army had created the Air Corps Ferrying Command. Out of this small organization grew the US Air Transport Command, under the command of Maj. Gen. Harold L. George.
"Flying the Hump, Moonlight, CBI" by Tom Lea. Pilots flying this treacherous route kept Allied supply lines open. (Army Art Collection
"It seems almost incredible," Gen. William H. Tunner remarked in his memoirs, "that up until three o'clock in the afternoon of May 29,1941, there was no organization of any kind in American military aviation to provide for either delivery of planes or air transport of materiel."
When the Japanese closed the Burma Road, the US devised an initial plan that called for sending 5,000 tons of supplies each month over the Hump into China as soon as possible. American C-47s delivered the first, small load of supplies in July 1942. It was a meager beginning. If the resupply effort was to be greatly expanded, airfields would have to be built, pilots would have to be trained, and transports would have to be manufactured and ferried to the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater.
Generals Stilwell (left) and Merrill. (DA photograph)
The air transport task in the CBI fell first to Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, commander of Tenth Air Force. The Ferrying Command was to deliver seventy-five C-47s to the CBI, but some were diverted to support British forces in North Africa. Of the sixty-two that finally reached the theater, about fifteen were destroyed or lost, and many of the rest were out of service for long periods due to a shortage of parts and engines.
It was obvious that the theater air commander should not be responsible for a supply route reaching from factories in the US to destinations in China. On October 21, 1942, Air Transport Command (ATC) officially took over the task.
Operations under ATC began in India on December 1. The original small air transport unit was established as ATC's India-China Wing. As air transport activity increased, it became the India-China Division, comprising several wings. "Every drop of fuel, every weapon, and every round of ammunition, and 100 percent of such diverse supplies as carbon paper and C rations, every such item used by American forces in China was flown in by airlift," General Tunner said later.
Few aircraft are as well known or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 or "Gooney Bird" as it was affectionately nicknamed.
Tonnage flown across the Hump increased slowly. Thirteen bases were established in India and six in China. Curtiss C-46s gradually replaced the Douglas C-47s and C-53s. Consolidated C-87s, the cargo version of the B-24, and some war-weary B-24s were added. In December 1942, 800 net tons were delivered to China. In July 1943, 3,000 tons were delivered. The target was 5,000 tons per month, but Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese leader, wanted more. President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally ordered the target increased to 10,000 tons a month.
Sorry for missing your fine threads this week .. was injured in a car accident on Sunday and I have been laying low at home most of the week. No permanent injuries but it hasn't been a pleasant week.
Looks like I have a lot of reading to do!
Although the C-46 was a better plane it just didn't have the "charm" of the C-47.
Welcome to Our Newest Citizens
Navy Seaman Oliver Cromwell Ganaden of Walnut City Calif., stands with his mother, Conchita, during a naturalization ceremony on the deck of the USS Constellation in Coronado, Calif, Wednesday, July 2, 2003. A total of 216 military personel from 42 countries took part in the ceremony to become U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Tim Tadder)
U.S. Navy (news - web sites) Seaman participate in a naturalization ceremony on the deck of the USS Constellation in Coronado, Calif., Wednesday, July 2, 2003. (AP Photo/Tim Tadder)
A total of 216 military personnel from 42 countries took part in the ceremony to become U.S. citizens.on the deck of the USS Constellation in Coronado, Calif., Wednesday, July 2, 2003. (AP Photo/Tim Tadder)
Eduardo Aguirre, director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, from left, sits with Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary of the Border and Transportation Security, Rear Admiral Jose L. Betancourt, Jr., and Michael Petrucelli, deputy director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services on the deck of the USS Constellation during a naturalization ceremony in Coronado, Calif., Tuesday, July 2, 2003.
Navy Seamen Jose Morfin, Marco Relello and Jose Olivares, from left, joke about the photographs on their newly obtained naturalization certificates after a ceremony on the deck of the USS Constellation, in Coronado, Calif., Wednesday, July 2, 2003.
Navy Seaman Oliver Cromwell Ganaden, originally from the Philippine Islands, is congratulated by his mother Conchita during a naturalization ceremony on the deck of the USS Constellation, in Coronado, Calif., Wednesday, July 2, 2003.
1989 Jim Backus actor (Magoo, Gilligan's Island), dies at 76 of pneumonia
Jim Backus played a pilot in Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, driving a civilian twin engine job. His character was so funny. He always flew with an Old Fashioned in hand, as he put it, "its the ONLY way to fly"!
The story of the Hump reminds me of a saying I heard, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. Those guys in the Airlift Command, especially on the Hump route, were sure pros.
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