Flying Over the Hump

It was 1944. I, and about 20 other soldiers, had been in Assam, India a few months waiting for transportation to China. Travel Day arrived and we were transported to an airfield where a C46 was waiting. This was a two-engined plane that appeared a little too fat to be capable of flying. I would have been happier with a C47, which was the equivalent of the future commercial DC3.

We put on parachutes and were then led into the plane. There were no conventional seats. We sat on a sort of bench along side the windows. The engine started and, with a roar, the plane took off.

Soon, all we could see below was a forest of the very tall peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. I thought that if we had to abandon the plane and float down with parachutes, we would surely be pierced by those peaks. The idea of trying to maneuver in the unfriendly-looking environment below seemed impossible.

What we were doing was called “flying over the hump.” What I saw below didn’t look like a hump. I think a better term for what were doing was “flying over the peaks.”

The flight didn’t take long. We soon landed at an airport that looked like it was only half finished. There were many workers with rollers and shovels improving the runways for the planes. This was Kunming Airport in China. I was fascinated by the difference in the appearance of the buildings to what I had seen in India. The buildings looked exactly as I had seen them in pictures of Chinese architecture. Now I was right in the middle of them.

There were temporary quarters for us for the night. We were scheduled to begin a long road trip in the morning to central China where we would be doing our work. In the morning, we formed a convoy of trucks and jeeps. I had never before driven a vehicle but was assigned to drive a Jeep. This was to be done on a narrow roadway that ran up and down steep mountainous country. Somehow, I survived the fearful trip; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this story.

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