Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Flying The Hump

Discussion in 'The CBI Theater' started by SaltyShellback, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. SaltyShellback

    SaltyShellback Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2008
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    19
    Before I went on vacation a week and a half ago, I met a gentleman named Leonard (Cormo?), not sure of the spelling, who flew The Hump in WWII. This all started with a Hump Pilots Association bumper sticker on the back of a car at the dealership I work at. A couple of the younger kids were wondering what it was. As I am retired military, they asked me. So I explained what "The Hump" was and why it was important to WWII. They lost interest pretty fast. I talked to the service writer and asked her to give the gentlemen my name and phone number if he wouldn't mind talking to me. He gave me a call and I explained to him who I was and that I belong to a couple of online WWII forums and would he be interested in telling his story. He was more than happy to talk to me. He told me he was surprised that anyone today even knew what the "The Hump" was.
    Anyway, after a short conversation Leonard agreed to meet with me and talk about his story. Don't worry, I'll let him know about this website.

    Leonard's father owned an import/export business in Shang Hai where he grew up. Before the war he came back to the U.S. to get his engineering degree and went back to China to work for his father until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He flew C-46's and C-47's. We discussed the pros and cons of the C-46 and he agreed to meet after we came back from vacation. He explained that after the war there were over 35,000 members of The Hump Pilots Assn and today there are less than 2,000. They quit holding reunions approximately two years ago because most could not attend due to medical, financial, or family reasons. Leonard is 90 years old.

    Now I have a point of confusion I will get cleared up. He gave me a date of Dec 12, 1941 as being in Pearl Harbor on his way back to China. So I am unclear exactly when he joined the USAAC, I could have sworn he said after Pearl Harbor, although I probably misunderstood what he said.

    So, if anyone has questions they would like to ask please post them here. Please keep them short and concise at this time as I do not know how much he is willing to talk about. I had told him a lot of my questions would be about day to day life, aircraft, flying routes/tactics, bases of operation, types of airfields they flew into. Types of aggressor aircraft, etc...

    If he has access to a computer I will encourage him to join up so everyone can hear his story.

    Take care,
    SaltyShellback
     
    lwd likes this.
  2. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,281
    Likes Received:
    84
    Good move, sir. I hope you succeed in your effort.
     
  3. USAAFson

    USAAFson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    View attachment 22683 View attachment 22684 View attachment 22685 My dad, 1LT Francis R. "Dick" Wilma (1920-2005) flew The Hump in C-46s out of Chabua in '44 and '45. There was a tour requirement of something like 600 hours which translated to about 50 missions. The biggest threat was weather although he thought he saw a Japanese airplane once. I have snapshots and some official photos of the Chabua base.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    10,698
    Likes Received:
    864
    Location:
    Michigan
    The fact that the maps weren't all that good was a bit of a problem as well. I remember reading a story of a pilot flying the hump. He was in the clouds and flying what he thought was several thousand feet above the terrain. At one point the clouds cleared and he got a good look at the ground. At first he thought it was quite pretty then he realized he could make out individual leaves. This implied that the ground was lot closer than it was suppose to be. But for that clearing in the clouds he might well have gotten too close to it. Passing the word along may also have saved other planes, pilots, and crews.
     
  5. USAAFson

    USAAFson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    The big hazard over The Hump was ice. Add to that human error in navigation and other rotten weather issues and, as Dad put it, "...you had s*** crawling up your spine." The memorable event was the big storm in January '45 when so many planes went down and most ended up at other bases because they could not maintain their course.
     
  6. USAAFson

    USAAFson New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2015
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    The usual route to China was across the Pacific, but with the outbreak of hostilities U.S. access to seaports like Shanghai would have been cut off. A ship could have made it through to Rangoon, Burma before the Japanese advance cut off that route. From Rangoon to Kunming it was the Burma Road. What probably happened is that he arrived in Honolulu and had to turn around and go back to the States where he could enlist. There was a huge evacuation of white residents from Hawaii back to the mainland.

    At that time men enlisted in the Air Corps and then went home and awaited the call up. Dad enlisted in April '42 and reported in July.

    Salty, it has been seven years since your post. Did Leonard ever get back to you?
     
  7. Sam Riddle

    Sam Riddle New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    I realize that this thread is two years old, but I'm a new member, so I will contribute what I have here. I am assuming this is the main thread for discussing it. Please redirect me, if necessary.

    A fact about the Hump that seems to not be widely known is that there were also northern routes over the Himalayas that could not be flown by the twin engine C-47 and the C-46. They were flown by 4 engine C-87's that were actually war weary B-24's that had been refitted as cargo planes, and later C-109's. These were also B-24's, but refitted as tankers. As the war was ending, there were a few C-54's. Their India bases were located along the Brahmaputra River at Tespor and a few other small cities that I forget the names of.

    These flights were safe from fighter attack, but had many difficulties resulting from short PSP runways and flying at high altitude without cabin pressurization. The crews took off dressed in what they called 'limey shorts' and tee shirts and added clothing as they climbed. Eventually, they were wearing arctic clothing, which they then stripped off as they descended. Later in the war, they received electric flying suits that plugged into the ship's power supply and could be adjusted like an electric blanket. The crew consisted of pilot, co-pilot, radio operator and flight engineer. There were no navigators. They had two radio compasses that allowed the co-pilot to plot the two bearings from known positions and intersect them to determine location.

    My father was an Oklahoma farm boy that enlisted several months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, to participate in the Sergeant Pilot program that the Army Air Force began at that time. There was a big response to that program that overwhelmed their equipment and training capability, which they managed by 'washing out' all but two of every five who were accepted into the program. The other three would become bombardiers, navigators, radio operators, and mechanics. He became a mechanic, being tone deaf and therefore unable to receive Morse Code. He went to Sheppard Field, Witchita Falls, TX, for mechanic school, and went to Air Transport Command in the CBI Theater.

    He had joined the Army with two cousins and a close friend. One cousin made it through pilot school and was shot down during a bombing mission on the Japanese islands that could be reached from bases in the Aleutian Islands. The other cousin went to coastal artillery in the Philippines and survived the Bataan Death March. His friend got into the bomb damage assessment team for the European Theater, and spent the entire war in London, analyzing aerial photography.

    My dad was also in the Korean War, and served as an infantry 1st Sgt. His experiences there were much more personal, and he would not talk about either war for many years, except with fellow veterans. I compensated by becoming a student of WWII, and soon found that he would answer intelligent questions. As the years went by, he gradually told me about many of his experiences, sometimes in minute detail. Naturally, I attempted to verify everything, and I rarely found anything that contradicted what he had told me. When I realized what a great source he was, I started writing down some of his war stories, to be read by his great-grandchildren, should they ever become interested.
     
    lwd likes this.
  8. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    12,658
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Thanks for the update. It's always good to hear stories about the "forgotten theater".
     

Share This Page