Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
3rd Combat Cargo Group, 10th Combat Cargo Squadron
Sgt. Aloysius 'Al' O'Neill Jr.
|September 20, 1998
I don't know if you know that I was not a pilot and that I was a late-comer to the theater. I joined the squadron in late March 1945, about 11 months after it arrived in the theater. By then there was much less danger from enemy action than there had been earlier.
By that time the Japanese were pretty much on the run in Burma, but they were still there. Their air force was just about nonexistent, but of course, we couldn't be sure about that. The last time our squadron's aircraft were attacked by Japanese airplanes was December '44.
I never heard of any of our planes being hit by ground fire while on a drop mission while I was there. On my very first trip into Burma, we went to a field close to the lines to pick up walking wounded (British), but nobody shot at us. We did lose planes regularly, but this was due to the terrain and the weather, as well as almost impossible conditions for maintenance, and the inexperience of the pilots. I'm not criticizing the pilots with that statement; they were thrown into terrible flying conditions with very brief overall training and as far as I'm concerned, they performed miracles in getting so many of us through the war. It rains every day in the summer in Burma; we were never grounded because of the weather while I was there.
10th ComCar lost three crews within two months of our arrival; after that we lost planes but never another man except for one death from meningitis in Shanghai. I tell you about my late arrival in the theater so you will know my "war" experience was very limited. However, it was very interesting to me and I have recorded some parts of it as you see. I wrote the stories of a couple of near misses strictly for my children to have. You are the first person to see these outside of my family and the man who had been Co-Pilot on one plane (Len Welker) and the one who had been the Flight Engineer (Norm Stewart) on the other.
At my level I did not know much about why things were happening as they did. Whenever I mention the strategic reasons for what was happening to us, it's usually from information I read much later.
About the stuff I'm enclosing:
1. The piece about my military career is self explanatory. I believe I wrote it at the request of the secretary of the George Field Association.
2. The "SPECIAL ORDERS" dated 8 February 1945 formed various aircrews into squadrons and flights for our trip to the CBI. We had all trained together at George Field, then a part of Troop Carrier Command. Shortly after these orders were cut we departed Baer Field (a "Staging Area) for New York to go to Europe. After four days in New York, we were sent back to Baer Field and then to the CBI. We flew as passengers on C-46s being delivered to the CBI by the Air Transport Command. Each plane carried two of the 4-man crews on the list, in addition to cargo. When we reached Ondal, India, a replacement depot, the various crews were sent to a number of different squadrons, Combat Cargo, Troop Carrier, Air Commando, etc. As near as I can remember, looking at the list, eleven of the crews in our detachment went to 10th ComCar.
These replacements were very welcome. I understood that before our arrival Radio Operators had one day off in twenty-five. Shortly after we arrived, another group of replacements came in and reduced our flying days to about one in four. (I completed my first hundred hours in twenty days.)
3. WHAT I REMEMBER ABOUT CHARLES CLAUSER'S etc. Chuck Clauser was a very good friend of mine. We rediscovered each other about six years ago and got together several times. He died en route to the HPA Reunion in 1997, and I put together the story of his military career from George Field on for his daughters. A lot of us had the same general experiences, so I thought it might be interesting to you. Note: when I describe his decorations, our story parts company. I got two Air Medals, but no Distinguished Flying Cross. As a result of the two incidents I enclose, I missed flying time, and did not qualify for the DFC before the war ended for me when I was hospitalized.
4. I've also enclosed copies of clippings from Time Magazine, The Shanghai Herald, and the SCOTT FREE PRESS, all from late 1945, describing our post-war activity, performed as 331st Troop Carrier Squadron, 513th T.C. Group.
Best Regards, Al O'Neill
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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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