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
THE BLUE YONDER BECKONED
Lt. Herbert P. Ochs
| I am sure
that I speak for every Pilot everywhere when I say that we were all fascinated with
Aircraft in our youth. For me, I believe interest began in 1927 at the tender age of
4 when Charles Lindberg finally began his solo flight across the Atlantic. The Radio
broadcast such constant news of this historic flight that I distinctly remember looking
out our NJ window for his plane. Several years later I was truly hooked when my
father took us to visit the newly opened Newark Airport, and I walked under the then
newest passenger plane, the venerable DC-3. I was soon building model rubber-band
propelled airplanes from .25 balsa and tissue kits, reading pulp magazines about those WWI
biplanes/triplanes, their heroes and those aerial battles. When the Japanese bombed
Pearl Harbor and we entered the war, there was no question that I was going to try for my
Wings. One had to be 19 years of age to apply, and my mother cried when she signed
the application along with my father in the Fall of 1942. The flying training fields
were overcrowded with cadets and so we were sent to Atlantic City for indoctrination and
basic military training in December where the U.S. Air Corps had taken over all hotels....
As we were potential officers: Pilot, Bombardier or Navigator we were assigned to a special platoon, and given V-E-R-Y Special Attention by our 18 year Army Corporal Drill Master, who would remind us that "I want to see an illustrious shine on dem shoes", and we should "Distinguish dem cigarette butts now!" Then one morning after his giving us a really rough time, when we were marching on the Boardwalk to lunch he gave the order; as singing when marching was always the rule; "Air Corps song, ready sing!" I had passed the word to disobey this order with silence, and so soon after his second command: "Platoon halt!"-"Left Face!", he paced up and down the ranks admonishing us with the comment that "I don't know what youse guys is grumbling about, because youse is gettin' a million bucks woith of experience,.... (long pause) which even if you had a million bucks, you could never buy!"
That Corporal was much smarter than we gave him credit for, and I have felt since that his statement then sums up every experience every soldier has had in every branch in any war anywhere throughout history.
From Atlantic City we were sent to a College Training Detachment (CTD) for 4 months of Math, Physics, Meteorology and 10 hours in a 65 horsepower Piper Cub, with no brakes. It was thrilling to get the feel of Flight even though we were not allowed to solo. On from there to Nashville, TN where we were finally advised which of the 3 specialties we qualified for....From there to Montgomery, Alabama for "Pre-Flight" training where soon we were singing "Marching through Georgia" when the Southern boys rendered "Dixie" as we marched by. (Both songs were banned after ranks were broken and a fight between the two groups broke out.).... Then on to Primary, Basic and Advanced flying training in open cockpit low wing Fairchild PT-23s, Vultee BT-13s for instrument flying etc:, and then for me to Twin Engine Curtiss AT-9s; a really hot plane originally designed as a Fighter for the Dutch Air Force refitted with smaller engines as a trainer. As we were asked to pick or preference with every move, I had always designated "Twin Engine Fighter Pilot", as my first choice. I had been in love with those beautiful P-38s I saw flying into Newark Airport for dismantling and shipping by ship from Port Newark to the war.
All this was in the Southeast Training Command in the Class of "44-E", which meant graduation, Commissions and Wings in May '44. As there were no immediate orders for most of our class, I had been assigned to a job for two weeks at this Blytheville, AR field which required a half day Saturdays. Betsy and I, classmates and my first date in High School were married in June of '43 when she finished College. Since, she had been living in a room in a private house off the field. As I opened that house door this one Saturday, Betsy was on the phone; saw me and exclaimed ; "Here he is now".
I was asked to return to the field, and was given my orders to report to NYC for assignment to the war. Many times since I have wondered if I would be recalling all of this now, if I had missed that phone call!.... In NY, I was "processed", given final orders which brought me eventually to Sylhet in Assam, India to the then home of the 10th Combat Cargo Squadron, 3rd Combat Cargo Group; 10th Air Force. As a passenger with no priority, the Air Transport Command took three weeks to get me where I was headed. It was a really hot day in July, I arrived alone, as some poor Pilot's replacement, and when I popped a salute and handed my orders to the then Assistant Operations Officer; First Lt. John Pacura he looked at them and loudly exclaimed "44-E, - who in the Hell sent for you!"..... And so, this was the beginning of my overseas military assignment.
We were all Citizen Soldiers then doing what we could, and what we had to in what Studs Terkel called in his book, the "Good War". So many have died, were wounded and suffered trauma, that I have been counting my blessings since that. Now with the help of Bill B's web site, I too am given this opportunity to record, my very own "Million bucks woith of experience!
As I read it, I am sure that old CBI'ers won't care about any of this, but I hope that the Young who hit your Site will find it somewhat interesting. And maybe have some understanding of what it was like to be involved in the "backwater" of the Great War.
Submitted by Herbert P. Ochs 10th Combat Cargo - Sylhet, Deargon, Dinjan 7/13/99
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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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