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
| So here was Harley Hanson, farm
boy from Washington Island, Wl. - 24 years old - living in the jungles of India where
temperatures could reach 140 degrees, flying almost daily over the worlds highest
mountains. What was it like? Here is an excerpt from an article titled "The
Heroes of the Himalayas" by Lt. Col. James P. Bronowski.
You are the pilot of a C-47 and life is definitely not good flying the Hump. You share a small bamboo and thatch basha with five other pilots. It doesnt pay to make friends with them because the casualty rate is extremely high. You have to be smart and yes lucky to survive because the odds are stacked against you.
Its raining, of course thats not unusual since around 200 inches of rain fall during the 6 month monsoon season. Large cumulus buildups to the east hide the 20,000 foot peaks of the Himalayas, a giant wall that must be crossed by air to supply the Chinese and American troops holding off two million Japanese soldiers. Every drop of gas, every bomb and bullet, and every spare part for American planes and equipment must be flown over the Hump. 20 to 30 aircraft a month are lost and only rarely does a crew survive when a plane is lost.
Mud and water are a way of life in this part of India. The bugs and rats are in great supply. Your diet mostly consists of spam, dehydrated potatoes, rice and C-Rations. The local food would put you on the sick list for days, so you steer clear of it.
As you walk up the incline toward the cockpit between barrels of highly volatile aviation fuel, you begin to conjure up the "What Ifs". What if an engine fails on takeoff? What if Japanese fighters find us today? What if turbulence is so bad we cant control the airplane? What if we get lost in the weather and hit a mountain? What if we ice up so bad that we cant maintain alitude and smash into the ground? What if we have to bail out over the jungle? What if high winds over the mountains get us hopelessly lost? What if? What if? When the weather is good over the Hump, which isnt very often, you can literally follow the trail of crashed aircraft - the aluminum trail. You dont know if the crews successfully baled out or not - no one has made it back to tell their story. Your chances of surviving until the end of the war are not very good.
Harley had some personal stories that he shared with his family. On a 4th of July several years after the war he remarked that there was one 4th of July that he thought would be his last. He had landed his plane on a small strip carved out of the jungle and while it was being unloaded Japanese planes flew over, strafing the air strip over and over. They all ran for cover and waited it out. Eventually the enemy departed but is was a 4th of July he never forgot. Harley also made a comment years later that during the war he lost respect for Chinese soldiers. When asked why "he told this story. His cargo for one of his missions was a load of Chinese soldiers to be transported to the front. Shortly after they were underway it was reported to Harley that a hatch was still open. He ordered them to shut it and was horrified when they first pushed one of their comrades out the open hatch and laughed as they watched him fall.
Harley flew 126 missions in 7 months clocking 504 hours knowing he was lucky to return each time.
Medals received by Harley G. Hanson: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal Air Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters) Distinguished Flying Cross (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Submitted by Marcia Carr (Daughter). The text is from a 1998 Memorial Day Speech she delivered for the local American legion Post
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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: email@example.com
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