Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
2nd Combat Cargo Group, 6th Combat Cargo Squadron
Our First Day in the Jungle
Capt. Eugene "Tick" DeLange
| The first day we were at
Nabzab in New Guinea, Ted Tatum, Bob Arnold, Roger Killingsworth and I were sitting around
complaining and wondering where we would be permanently located. Nadzab was not a very
nice place and the quarters were not very good. Tatum kept saying "Why do we have to
sleep on canvas cots when permanent members have cots with springs and mattresses."
Everyone agreed, but nothing could be done!
It was always a mystery to me how we received information about where personnel overseas were located. On the way from Townsville, Austrailia to Nadzab, I noticed a base by the name of Doba Dura near our route. That range a bell about an old friend of Roger Stephens and me being located there. His name was Bill Tillery and he had been a C-47 instructor with us at Bergstrom. I had found out he was the operations officer there and that it was an Air Transport Command Base. I thought Bill might be able to help us with beds, so I asked Tatum if I could have a plan and go to see him. Tatum and the others were all for it. Stephens had banged up the wing tip on his plane the night we arrived at Townsville and Ted had grounded him for a while. Since Stephens knew Bill, I asked Ted if Stephens could come along as my copilot and he reluctantly agreed. Remember this was our first day in the area and we knew little about procedures and locations.
As I recall, Doba Dura was about two hours from Nadzab, so we took off and headed in the right direction and, after a while, got the base on the radio and followed the needle in. We got there about four o'clock in the afternoon and sure enough Captain Bill Tillery was the operations officer.
After a short conversation, the subject of beds came up. Bill said he had nothing to do with such things, but would get with his supply officer and help us out. The two of them took up to a barracks that was completely filled with cots and mattresses. They told us we could have two and later agreed to three cots and that was all. By this time it was getting late and we told Bill we would stay overnight, but would leave early the next morning. He agreed to leave a truck with us so we could load the beds early. My trust crew chief, Sam Delucca, and radio operator, Gasaway, took care of the truck.
About three in the morning, Stephens and I got Sam and Gasaway up and loaded 12 cots and mattresses on the plane and took off. The night before Bill showed us about 12 weather typewriters and said they needed some sort of repair and we could have one so, Stephens loaded it on the plane. Neither of us could type but for the rest of the time we were overseas, Stephens and I argued over who owned the typewriter.
There was a steady rain when we took off and visibility was zero in the rain. First we flew out over the water to gain altitude as there were some high mountains around Doba Dura. Then we turned back toward Finschfafen which was on the route to Nadzab. The rain never stopped and we had no idea what the weather was in Nadzab. We started to worry a little when a voice boomed out on the radio "The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas." Although there was supposed to be radio silence in the area, I asked him where he was and he said he was about 40 miles from Finch Haven and just broke out of the rain. We went in to Nadzab and Ted, Bob and Rog were elated with beds. The irony of it all was we got spring cots the next night. I also learned a lesson that weather was just as dangerous as the Japs.
SEQUEL 1: A few months later, I had engine trouble near Manila. I had to land there. Bill Tillery had been transferred and met me at the plane. His opening words were "When are you going to return the beds you stole."
SEQUEL 2: Tillery was one of the better C-47 pilots and an excellent instructor. A few years later, I was planning on looking him up and received word he was a passenger in a C-47 that crashed in the mountains of Oregon.
Written by Eugene 'Tick' DeLange 2001. Special thanks to Tilson King 6th Combat Cargo Squadron for keeping his fellow squadron mates together and getting them to record some of their memories and forwarding them to me. © 2001
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