Flying the Hump – an update

Thanks to a re-blog on “Pacific Paratrooper“, lots of people had a look at my post “Flying the Hump“. A heroic piece of history that should not be forgotten. I decided to post this addition and illustrate it with some  pictures from my files.
And as I dedicated a chapter in  “The Java Gold – Book One” to flying the Hump, here’s an excerpt describing the arrival of one of those flights
American C-47 carrying supplies for Chinese troops in
Suddenly the conversation in the primitive flight office died and everybody looked up. There wasn’t an airman between them who did not hate that sound; the coughing, blathering, backfiring noise of an airplane with engine trouble. They ran outside to see a C47 limping towards the northern end of the runway, its port engine belching and backfiring and leaving a trail of smoke. As they watched in silence, they all knew the pilot had one and only one chance to put his troubled ship down. If he overshot the runway he’d never be able to climb and go around again. So they watched and waited … and prayed.
Somehow the pilot managed to get a final burst of power out of both engines, just enough to cross the runway threshold. He leveled the wings of his staggering plane, cut the power and flared the aircraft. The C47 touched down hard, throwing up a spray of mud and ran down the bumpy runway, rapidly slowing down. It turned near the end and taxied to the loading area where it came to a noisy halt.
Another flight across the ‘Hump’ accomplished
The cargo door opened and the crew climbed stiffly out, the stress still visible in their faces. They waited silently in the shade of the wing for the duty jeep to pick them up. After the short ride across the blazing tarmac they wearily walked into the dispatcher’s office

Capt Bamboo Joe Barube and Lt Ernest Lajoie after a flight

Captain ‘Bamboo Joe’ Barube  and Lt Ernest Lajoie after a flight into China. Source: ‘Life’  Magazine, Sept.11, 1944 issue

“Captain Vandermerwe and crew back from Kunming” Peter announced wearily while he dumped the bag containing the flight papers and logbooks on the battered desk.
“Welcome back, captain, had a good flight?”
“No, the port engine fucked up over the Santsung Range and we barely made it past the Patkai’s.”
The dispatcher grunted. No real reply was necessary – he knew those ranges and how many planes had come to grief there during the past three years. More planes and men had been lost through faulty maintenance than to enemy action.
But, he asked himself, who in his right mind would want to work in this Godforsaken place? Where you did not even have a decent hangar? Where your fingers got burned and blistered if you tried to open an engine cowling of a plane that had been parked in the full sun?

Peter handed over the logbooks, loading out manifest and the rest of the documents and for a few moments the dispatcher went over the ‘gripes’ with the crew – the need for an engine replacement was obvious.

Maintenace on the Hump - a bad case of cannibalism

Maintenance on “The Hump”, more like a severe case of cannibalism – Source ‘Life’  Magazine, Sept 11, 1944 issue

The formalities completed Peter picked up his flight bag.
“See you in two weeks!”

“You guys got yourselves some leave?”
“Absolutely; we’ll be going down to Calcutta on the first available transport!”
“Have a good one!” the dispatcher said as they left.




An Assam airfield in the rainy season


Slaloming between the weird collection of airplanes and equipment that littered this most basic of airfields they made their way to the improvised mess hall. They halted briefly in the doorway to determine what was on today’s menu. The choices were extremely limited. The only food served was either Spam (fried slices of tinned meat) or – the next day – SOS (Shit On a Shingle, creamed ground beef on toast). These delicacies were served with dehydrated potato mash and you could wash it all down with a glass of ‘battery acid’ – a drink made out of concentrated grapefruit juice that seared your stomach lining.
A single sniff was enough: It was bloody SOS again so they decided to skip lunch and have dinner in Calcutta. To quiet their rumbling stomachs they grabbed some hunks of bread, having first ascertained it was not locally baked. Even after three years of roughing it they did not enjoy to find gnats and other stray insects embedded in the dough. Some of the older hands insisted that the baked insects gave the bread a distinctly nutty flavor. But that was definitely an acquired taste…

About Kingsleyr

Thank you for visiting my blog! The posts you find here are a direct result of my research into aviation and military history. I use the information I gather as a foundation and background for my books. You may call the genre historical fiction, a story woven into a background of solid and verifiable historical facts. However, the period and region I have chosen to write about (late 1930's - 1950's in South-East Asia) are jam-packed with interesting information and anecdotes. If I'd used them all I would swamp the stories. So this blog is the next best thing. It is an "overflow area" in which I can publish whatever I think will interest you. And from the reactions I get, I deduce I am on the right track. A lot will be about aviation in the former Dutch East Indies. This, because my series of books ("The Java Gold") follows a young Dutch pilot in his struggle to survive the Pacific War and its aftermath. But there's more in the world and you'll find descriptions of cities, naval operations and what not published on this blog. Something about myself; I am a Dutch-Canadian author, living in, and working out of the magical city of Amsterdam. My lifelong interest in history and aviation, especially WW2, has led me to write articles and books on these subjects. I hope you'll enjoy them!
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One Response to Flying the Hump – an update

  1. GP Cox says:

    Don’t thank me – YOU did all the hard work, Robert – keep it up!! You have terrific posts today – as always!!!


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