Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
1st Combat Cargo Group, 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron
The First Thing to Steal
Major Jean K. Tool
we landed our new C-47 on the airfield at Sylhet in the central Ganges plain, we were a
lonely and apprehensive crew. We were half-way around the world from home.
It's doubtful if many officials at the 'airbase' knew we were coming, although the fellow
in the control tower, a wee transmitter in a grass hut, gave us a rough idea of where to
park our airplane.
But one other person knew. Just after we opened the cargo door to disembark with our gear, a 2nd lieutenant climbed up the steps and moved swiftly forward to the personal storage area just behind the co-pilot's seat. He took the one-burner Coleman stove, contained in two aluminum cooking pots, which screwed together as a tubular carton for the stove. He was gone in a flash...down to the back door, down the steps and into a jeep. Vroom, vroom.
It turns out that this nifty gasoline stove, contained as it is in its handy cylindrical cooking cans, would be the most precious single item for the primitive camp-out year which lay ahead.
An innocent abroad, I had been deflowered without any romance at all.
The next difficulty was upon us at once. Our crew--Vaughn, Co-pilot; Truitt, Crew-chief; Milewski, Radio; and Nuckols, Navigator--as well as I--all had huge bundles of gear (including the electrically-heated flying suits) which we unloaded onto the ramp in anticipation of some vehicle or other taking us to our quarters.
But nobody came, and so Vaughn and I walked perhaps 200 yards to the closest Basha and there, to be sure, were several offices. I had our orders in hand, of course, and promptly found the Operations Officer. He had a big desk and a bare chest: the temperature was circa 105 and so was the humidity. How about the winter flying suits?
On his desk was a name-plate: Major Walden. On his chest was hair; he wore no shirt or tie in the wet and airless heat. But I, new captain to the area, but a relative old-timer in the military, had been taught that the insignia of rank ought to be respected.
"Sir," I said, as I sat down in a wicker chair without saluting, "I have a new airplane for the squadron...and I need to know where to put my men."
It was obvious that he resented the fact that I, a captain with an insignia on the collar point of my shirt, had not given him a salute. I did not salute his belly button nor either of his nipples, nor would I now. Show me a gold oak leaf anywhere on his person and I will salute that escutcheon.
"The barracks are up that road about a mile," he said with a flip of his thumb.
"You can use my jeep...how long will it take?"
"I've got five men altogether," I said, "and it could take two trips."
"Get the jeep back in half an hour," he said.
I'll try," I said.
We did it all in one trip. And on the way back to the flight-line, there was a swirl of vultures over a rice paddy just to the left of the road. Several birds knocked a running jackal to the ground, just as a falcon will dive on a bunny or a vole. Within minutes two-score of black pouncing red-necked birds had reduced the unlucky jackal to a skeleton.
What a welcome!
Major Jean K. Tool, Operations Officer, 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron, 1st Combat Cargo Group. From his book 'A CBI Adventure in WWII' 1992
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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.)
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