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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


Lt. Harley G. Hanson

     Harley Hanson was born and raised on Washington Island WI., growing up on his family’s farm on Jackson Harbor Road with his brothers and sisters -feeding chickens, herding the cows home, picking rock and baling hay. I wonder if in his wildest dreams he ever thought that by the time he was 24 years old he would be flying a C-47 over "the Hump’ - the Himalayan Mountains?

     In March of 1941 Harley went to Sturgeon Bay for his physical prior to enlistment into the service. Several days later, back on the Island, he received a penny post card with only "4F" written on it. That night a group of friends and relatives were gathered in the kitchen at the farm and someone asked if Harley had his orders yet. He responded that he was 4F. 4F!! someone blurted out. That’s only for crazy people! and according to his sister Varian "Harley got pale". Varian – never one to leave questions unanswered - wrote to the draft board asking for more information. Soon a card came back that said only "Insufficient Teeth".

     Well, insufficient teeth is something that can be fixed so Harley hit the road and headed for San Francisco where his brother Gerald lived. There he worked on the docks as a stevedore, loading and unloading the holds of ships, waving farewell to several Island boys - Hannes Andersen and Steve Ellefson - as their ships set sail for the Pacific. He worked there long enough to earn the money to get his teeth fixed and on April 4, 1942 with his smile glinting and gleaming with gold he enlisted at Marfa Air Force Base in Texas. Here he was trained to do what he had worked so hard for - to become a pilot and fly his own plane. It wasn’t easy and at times he became discouraged. Letters were exchanged with his sisters at home and those of you who know his sister Varian will appreciate what she wrote to her discouraged brother. ATTITUDE!! ATTITUDE!! Go out and kick that plane and determine to get the best of it!" And he did. Shortly thereafter he became 2nd Lieutenant Harley G. Hanson and was enlisted as a pilot of a two engine plane as a military occupational specialty. His tour of duty was to be in the China-Burma-India theater of the war - the CBI - where he flew a C-47 cargo plane transporting troops and supplies from India over the Himalayan Mountains into China. This treacherous flight was known as "Flying the Hump".

     There are thousands of books written about World War II - the war in Europe, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Midway, Iwo Jima – these are all familiar names, places and events but you don’t read or hear much about the CBI and you don’t read or hear much about pilots of cargo planes. Compared to fighter pilots and bombing raids, flying an unarmed cargo plane seems like pretty mediocre stuff. As one writer put it "You never saw John Wayne starring in a movie about a C-47 hauling a load of Spam across some mountains." But flying the Himalayan Hump came to be considered by pilots as the most treacherous air route in the world. Lou Pardini, a tail gunner for the Flying Tigers in China said "We took plenty of flak but the guys who had it the toughest were our supply and logistic people. You could find a route from India to China by looking for their downed cargo planes." From 1942 to 1945 more than a million tons of cargo and relief supplies were flown over the Hump costing 910 American Airmen their lives.

     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: bill@comcar.org

Imphal, the Hump and Beyond  Copyright 1999-2000 Bill Bielauskas  All rights reserved.

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