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

 

3rd Combat Cargo Group, 10th Combat Cargo Squadron

Formation of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group

Lt. James Laird

   Due to the fact that the CBI Theater was very low on the priority list, the War in that area was going quite badly, something had to be done about it.  The AirTransport Command, flying "The Hump" to Kunming and the Burma Road from Lashio to Kunming were the main sources of supply.  The Japanese had just about cut off the Burma Road and were kicking the daylights out of the poorly supplied forces of General Stillwell and Wingate's Raiders.  The riverhead at Imphal and the Myitkyina landing strip were almost surrounded on three sides.  The birth of the "Combat Cargo Group" was the answer.  The 1st and 2nd ComCar groups were already formed and in training in the U.S. but it would be some time before they would be ready, so it was decided to get a "Quick Fix" by calling for 100 Volunteer pilots, I believe from the Ferry Command, with a minimum of 100 hours in the C47 and also with a 5P rating covering single and multi engine qualifications.

     The project was called "The Bond Project" (don't ask me where they got the name) with no indication of what it was or where we were going.  I volunteered at midnight of May 10th, 1944, after cartwheeling and completely wiping out a P40, while landing at Eglin Field Fl., show-boating before a newly graduated class.   I was immediately grounded and was to return to my base in Alpena, Michigan to face a flying evaluation board.  I arrived back at Alpena, Michigan on May 12th at midnight and checked in, the Operations Officer said I would probably spend the rest of the War as a Mess Officer someplace.  While we were engaged in this delightful conversation, the teletype starting banging away with the message calling for volunteers, and in as much as anybody that did was untouchable, I put my name down as fast as I could because it eliminated the evaluation board I was about to face.

     On May 14th I arrived at Morrison Field Florida along with the rest of the pilots and the next day we were each assigned a C-47 (mine was 43-15788) 100 co-pilots most of them right out of school, mine was Jack Martin, 100 Flight Engineers, (Tech Sgt. Arley Hudkins), 100 radio operators, (Pfc. Myron Chefetz), and a navigator on loan from the ATC.  There were an additional number of crew members including pilots there who went over as passengers.

     The next few days were spent on transition and training flights to familiarize the crews with the aircraft and each other.  We still were not informed about where we were going or what we would do.  The invasion of Europe was imminent at this time and most of us thought we were headed for England to fly Hospital evacuation or supply missions of some kind into and out of Europe to England.

     On May 21 1944, we took off with a heading to fly and sealed orders not to be opened until 1 hour after takeoff.  Because most of us were certain it would be England, I acted the real movie part and did not open the orders until the hour was up.  You can imagine my surprise when I opened them up and found our final destination was Karachi, India.  Our trip over was very well covered in Jack Martin's book "Through Hell's Gate to Shanghai", which I recommend as good reading for any member of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group so I won't go into it.  We finally arrived in Karachi. India on the 5th of June 1944.  All of my dates were taken from my log book and they don't all agree with Jack Martin's, so I really cannot say which are accurate, but it is a minor point in case they conflict with any of you who are reading this.  I have our arrival in Karachi as the 5th of June 1944 and Jack has it as May 27 1944, so be it.

     The next morning most of our questions were answered.  We were all now members of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group, commanded by Col. Charles Farr.   He briefly explained the critical situation in Northern Burma and that our function would be to supply these troops with everything they needed, food, fuel, ammunition etc., in order to gain the upper hand.  He then turned the meeting over to his operations officer who said we would divided into four Squadrons the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, comprising 25 C-47's, 25 crews, all based in Northern India near the Burmese border. He then made the assignments.  Myself my plane and my crew drew the 10th Combat Cargo Squadron, commanded by 1st Lt. Walter Duch from the 315th Troop Carrier Group and a well seasoned veteran of the CBI Theater

     We took off the next day for Sylhet in northern India, with an overnight at Agra and finally arrived at Sylhet.  We spent the next week in training learning the areas, weather, which at that time was lousy, and driven into the dust by Lt. Duch and his operations officer Lt. Pacura, both of which were first time commanders and bound and determined to be at the head of the line. Needless to say the entire squadron was made up a bunch of kids from the states that had never been in a Combat Area before and probably have never heard a shot fired in anger, let alone fired at them!  Nerves got very edgy over the future and I think all of us were scared to death about what we were about to face.  Taxi accidents were on the rise due to the confined space we had at the field and bent wing tips were the primary result.  Lt. Duch became enraged and called a meeting of all flight crews and ran us up one side and down the other and I got a little pissed off and shot my mouth off and something to the effect of "God dam it Lt. we are not doing it on purpose!"  The next day, to my surprise  I was appointed a Flight Leader.

     My first combat sortie I flew as a co-pilot with an RAF veteran as First Pilot to show me the ropes.  Our destination was a mud strip in Myitkyina at the end of a valley, one end of which was surrounded by the Japanese and we would be exposed to ground fire both landing and taking off. All of this was explained to me by my First Pilot who was a veteran of the Battle of Britain, flying Spitfires.  He was in India flying what they called a "Flak Leave" where he could recuperate from stress!  He looked at me standing there with my parachute on, shoulder holster with a Colt 45, survival kit, a canteen of water and helmet and goggles, fully prepared and equipped to go to War for my country.  He arrived with a floppy old campaign hat, a tee shirt, dusty old shorts that only the British can wear, no gun, no water, no survival kit, not anything, not even a parachute!  He looked me over and said "Chum, we won't be flying high enough for you to get out of the seat let alone the Bloody Airplane with all that junk on"!  So down the drain went all my ideas of doing
everything by the book.

     I am sure that most of you that were members of the original 3rd Combat Cargo Group had a similar experience, but regardless, I think you will agree that you grow from a "Hot Shot" kid with Hollywood dreams about war, into a Veteran pretty quick.  This is primarily written for those of you who wondered how you got there.

Lt. James Laird  12/22/2000


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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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