Imphal, The Hump and Beyond
U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War
Suddenly we're Pilots
| My best friend in China during WW2 was David R. Donald and he was also a
member of my crew. He and I along with a pilot, co-pilot and radio operator
had flown to Kweilin, China to spend 4 or 5 days flying missions from there
to remote bases in China. As it turned out, the co-pilot was needed
elsewhere, so we were down to a crew of 4.
We had completed our assignment and were staying overnight before returning to home base (Kunming) the next day. At about 4AM, I was awakened by the pilot telling me that there was an impending air raid at Kweilin, and he wanted to leave before we were restricted to the base because of the actual air raid. I called Dave Donald and the radio operator, and together we went out to my ship to get ready for takeoff. We hadn't completed the preflight when the pilot got there raring to go.
We taxied out to the runway where I felt sure he would stop, warm up the engines and check things out. Instead he rolled onto the runway, opened the throttles to pick up speed for takeoff. I was in the co-pilot seat cursing him and doing all I could to keep the engines from losing power since they were still cold. Luckily we got airborne OK, and it was then I could see that he was intoxicated. He apparently had spent the previous evening in the city of Kweilin, which was called "the Paris of China."
After we reached altitude and leveled off, he excused himself and went back to lie down. Dave and I flew the plane back to Kunming, but about 20 minutes out, I asked Dave to go back and wake the pilot. He came back after a couple of minutes and told me to forget it, since Ray, the pilot was completely out of it.
"Now what," I asked Dave. He said "Tom, you've been up here dozens and dozens of times; you can land this thing." The more he talked, the more I was convinced to try since we had to do something. So we radioed for landing instructions, and went through the check list that was procedure.
As I turned on final approach, I asked Dave to "give me half flaps, I guess" and to start calling off air speed. As we got closer to touchdown, I suddenly realized that I might bounce that plane all over the runway, so I pulled up the landing gear, opened the throttles and went around. The tower was calling on the radio asking what the problem was. I lied, and told them the landing gear Red warning light came on.
When I expressed my concerns to Dave, he said "well, I'll land the sucker." We came around, turned on final approach, and as I was calling off airspeed and got down to about 100, we touched down in a perfect landing. I think I called him an SOB for putting me through such stress. Until that minute, I had never known he had had extensive pilot training. He was a Private First Class and I was a Corporal.
Dave taxied the plane to a revetment at the far end of the field, where we took enough time to "cover" for our pilot and save his rear end.
Copyright 1999 Tom Flanagan
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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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