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U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War

1st Combat Cargo Group, 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron


3rd Combat Cargo Air Force?

Major John K. Moriarty

   Over time I gradually collected something of my own air force.  We had picked up somewhere a PT-19 primary trainer (an open cockpit, Ryan low-wing monoplane), then we picked up an AT-6 advanced trainer, and later on a P-38 (described below) which had been left by a fighter group at an airfield in China, and which we brought back to our base in Kunming.  Later on, while the 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron was still stationed in China, my squadron maintained the B-25 that belonged to the Commanding General of the Combat Cargo Task Force, and I could fly this whenever I wished.   I even tried to get a Japanese "Betty" medium bomber after the surrender, but in the words of Kipling, that's another story.

    The PT-19, though it probably cruised around 65-75 mph and had no flight instruments except altimeter, airspeed indicator and a magnetic compass, was fun to fly and I used take it up and fool around with it.  As a part of this, I decided once that if I kept the magnetic compass on a heading of east or west (where it is pretty stable) and watched the airspeed carefully, I could fly it on instruments.  I then began to fly into clouds, starting with smaller ones and then ever larger.  It turned out I could fly it on instruments, and after a while, I further decided that I could snap-roll it on instruments, just for kicks.  I had to time the roll right, and then quickly get on the magnetic compass again (on a heading of east or west, of course) for attitude stabilization.  It worked, and I was quite proud of myself.  Actually, this helped me a bit one afternoon when I had decided to fly the PT-19 from Hathazari, on the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal, across the northern part of the bay to Theater Headquarters at Calcutta.  The visit took longer than I expected, and I took off again just before dusk.  In that slow airplane the trip was going to take well over an hour, and I realized quickly as darkness approached that I wasn't going to be able to see the horizon at all. In addition to the constant haze everywhere around Calcutta (from millions of cattle-dung fires), there were scores of islands in the bay with fires on them as the natives prepared meals, and these dim fires were impossible to distinguish from dim stars.  So I was going to be totally on instruments, unless I returned to Calcutta which I didn’t want to do.  I decided quickly that if I looked only at my magnetic compass (luckily I was heading close to due east) I could fly the thing. Thus, if the heading slid to 87-8 degrees I steered back to the right; if it got to 92-3 degrees, I eased back left.  The magnetic compass became my artificial horizon, and I just kept my head down in the cockpit until I got back to our base, where I landed without difficulty.  I don't believe the PT-19 had landing lights, but I had practiced landing without lights so this was no problem.


     Our squadron was stationed in Kunming, China and, as I remember, the Japanese had just surrendered.  We were flying missions over most of China at the time, and on one of these the destination was an airfield several hundred miles to the northeast (I've forgotten just where) which had formerly been the base for a P-38 Fighter Group before it moved out.  While my C-47 was either being loaded or unloaded (for whatever reason the flight had been sent there), a Warrant Officer, who with some half-dozen airmen constituted the only Americans left at the field, told me there was a P-38 there that he would like to get rid of so that he could go home.  He said it had been left there by the Group because of some problem that had since been fixed.   He ran it up each day as he had been taught to do, but it was the main thing keeping him at the base.  I told him I would do what I could to help him, and resolved later that I would pick up the aircraft myself.

     The next time we had a flight going that direction (though not to that base), I took the flight and brought along an experienced pilot whom I could trust to continue the flight alone.  When I got to the P-38 base it was totally overcast up to at least 10-11,000 feet.  The airfield itself was located in the center of a bowl with mountains several thousand feet high all around it, and there was no let-down procedure because the radio beacon was located in the center of the field in some building down there.  I decided to work out my own let-down, and make a circular pattern round and round the beacon as I let down (I believe I knew that they had something like a thousand foot cloud ceiling at the base.)  I first had to decide the radius of the circle I wanted to describe, in order to stay within the bowl and out of the mountains.   As I approached the beacon at my flight altitude, I decided the number of miles I wanted the radius to be, then converted this to minutes (and seconds?), at my flight speed. I then went into a left turn, keeping the radio compass pointing at 90 degrees to my left. There was a pretty good wind blowing so I had to steepen up the turn on the downwind side (to keep from being blown way out of my circle), and shallow it up on the upwind side (to keep from being blown quickly over the center of my circle). I made the letdown all right and broke out over the field.

     When I landed, the Warrant Officer told me what he knew about the airplane, which wasn't much. I had never flown an aircraft with an inline--i.e., liquid cooled--engine before, but I figured I could work out how to fly it.  (Sometime later I was fortunate to fly a P51 with its legendary Rolls Royce Merlin engine when a classmate of mine, a P-51 Group Operations Officer, dropped in for a visit.  This was the only other inline engine powered aircraft I ever flew.)  I read all the P38’s placards, ran up the engines, then took off, having figured out in the meanwhile how to get the gear up, handle power and prop settings, etc.  I used my same let-down procedure in reverse, climbed back out and headed for Kunming over the mountains.   One problem was that there were gas tanks in both wrings, and the Warrant Officer in running up the engines for some weeks had apparently been using all from one side.   At least, I think this may have been the problem.  In any event, the fuel level on one side was much lower than the other, and I could just see myself
running out of gas for one engine--or so I feared at the time. I  read more placards (brushing leaves off, as I remember) and saw how to transfer fuel from one side to the other. I accomplished this, everything equalized, and arrived in great shape at Kunming.

     The aircraft was what they called a P-38L-O1 with a lot of communications equipment behind the pilot's seat.  Our engineering people took this out, along with the armor plate, which left room for a little jump seat and therefore a second passenger.  I flew this aircraft around to several places, including Hanoi a couple of times, to which I remember taking my first Sergeant.  The P-38 was a great airplane to fly, easy to land, and I got a lot of pleasure out of it

(The above item constitutes follow-up material sent by John K. Moriarty, former commander of the 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron during WWII, to the 328th Airlift Squadron, Niagara Falls, N.Y., after a personal interview in 1999 by the current Commander and some other members of that squadron. The 3rd Combat Cargo was later redesignated the 328th Troop Carrier Sqdn, and then the 328th Airlift Sqdn.)

Major John K. Moriarty, Commanding Officer, 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron, 1st Combat Cargo Group CBI 1944-1945. January 2000, Reedited Sept 2000

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    I am looking for former members of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group,  1st, Combat Cargo Group, 2nd Combat Cargo Group and the 4th Combat Cargo Group.  In fact I would like to hear from anyone who flew over the Hump during WW II, or flew any Combat Cargo Missions at any time (Berlin Air-Lift, Korea, etc.) 

Please e-mail comment, suggestions, corrections,etc to: bill@comcar.org

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