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
Lt. Harley G. Hanson
follows is as printed in Washington Island Door County Advocate:
ISLAND PILOT SAVES CREW IN "NO MANS LAND" CRASH HQS. TENTH AIR FORCE IN BURMA
Escape from death near Jap forward lines in Burma was effected by a combat cargo crew of the Tenth Air Force recently when an air-dropped supply case tore off a stabilizer of the C-47 causing a crash landing in the middle of "no Mans" land during a battle.
Unable to climb because the elevator control was smashed, Lieut. Harley Hanson, pilot, son of George Hanson, Washington Island and Lieut. James Kolb, co-pilot, Pulaski, Wis., circled the big plane in the valley where the accident occurred. The mountains surrounding the valley towered 2,500 feet above the plane. Escape by air with the damaged plane was obviously impossible.
Looking for a place that would ease the impact of a crash landing Lt. Hanson spotted a rice paddy. It was set in terraces on a mountain side with one of the upper levels having a hay stack on it. He made the hay stack the target for his landing.
Cutting the power, he let the C-47 down, losing altitude rapidly. Cpl. Gabriel V. Markantonio, 20, radio operator and several unidentified cargo kickers, braced themselves for the crash. The plane narrowly missed plunging into an embankment, skidding along a flat surface of the rice paddy into the hay stack as the tail rose high in the air.
The co-pilots head snapped forward, hitting the windshield; the kickers tumbled headlong down the length of the fuselage and the radio operator and pilot were shaken by the crash, but none was seriously hurt.
All crawled out of the wrecked ship to discover that they had landed in "no mans " land. Bursting shells and the chatter of machine guns could be heard nearby. To prevent any possibility of the plane falling into Jap hands, the crew set the plane on fire and withdrew to a safe distance.
Fifteen minutes later an American infantry patrol located the airmen and led them to safety. They learned that an artillery duel was in progress between the Japs and the Americans on opposing mountain sides only a short distance from their crashed plane.
Cpl. Markantonio, while returning with the American troops, departed from the main party to relay a message to Tenth Air Force planes above that the transport crew was in safe hands. He located a ground radio detachment of a tactical communications squadron of the Tenth Air Force, but only after hitting the ground several times as shell exploded scant yards away.
After spending a night in the jungle, the aircrew members were returned to their base via "jeep planes". Their final view of the scene was the tail of their wrecked transport still upended and still smoking from the fire.
In our issue of Feb. 2, we had news from the 10th AAF of Lt. Hanson having been given an Oak Leaf Cluster in addition to a previously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal. The dispatch did not specifically mention the reason for the awards but cited that the Island officer had completed 126 missions in 7 months.
His father when he heard about the crash said "Thank God hes a farmers son, he knew to look for a haystack." His official military record shows "no wounds received in action" but his sisters say he was black and blue from head to toe and his nerves were so shot that a cup of coffee would dance on the saucer when he tried to hold it. Shortly after the crash Harley was sent home for a short leave and then spent 2 months in a military hospital for the nervous condition. The war came to an end then and he was honorably discharged with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He never talked much about his war experiences but the one thing he was always proud of and grateful for was safely crash landing that plane and getting himself and his crew out alive.
Harley then returned to Washington Island, worked at various jobs, eventually serving as the Island mailman for 18 years. He married Elsabe Krause in December 1948 and they had two daughters, myself and my sister Joan. He served his community in many ways - 3 times commander of the American Legion Post 402, volunteer fireman, served several times on the Council at Trinity Lutheran Church, Community Center Board, Community Action Council and Washington Island Insurance Board. He was always willing to lend a helping hand, willing to serve his church, his country, his community, his friends and his family. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart aneurysm at the age of 52 April 24, 1971.
And how proud he would be and how he would have loved to have known his three fine grandsons- Robert, Timothy and Gregory Carr. Your grandfather died long before you were born. He was never able to tell you his war stories, to take you fishing and hunting, to watch you grow up and become young men. He wasnt able to leave you a trust fund for college and your future. But he left you with a fine inheritance nonetheless. He left you with the example of his life well lived. He left you his honesty and integrity, his compassion and his courage, his willingness to serve his country, his community and his fellow man. You - my three sons are made of this same fine stuff. And that is an inheritance that is beyond value.
Harley G. Hanson was an American Citizen Soldier, willingly giving up four years of his life for his country. Why did he do it? Why did any of the thousands of American Soldiers do it? Historian Steven Ambrose in the closing sentence of his book "Citizen Soldiers" sums it up. He writes: "At the core, the American Citizen Soldier knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didnt want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful."
Submitted by Marcia Carr (Daughter). The text is as printed in the Door County Advocate:
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