CORPORAL CAMPBELL'S ADVENTURE
CRASH LANDS IN THE LAKE
23 February 1944
Cpl. Blaine Campbell departed Kunming, China for Yangkai, about forty miles to the northeast, on assignment to fly low-level bombing missions with the 491st Bombardment Squadron (M). The "RINGER SQUADRON" had just begun operations after tranfering from Chakulia, India and assignment to Tenth Air Force. He was on his second mission with the Squadron, 23 Feb 44; , when four B-25's were assigned to perform a sea sweep of Tongking Gulf, looking for shipping targets of opportunity. Their alternate targets were the Thanh Hoa Chrome Mine, the Distillery at Nam Dinh and rolling stock. The first two of these were in the vicinity of Van Trai, and the third was approximately fifteen miles north. Reconnaissance indicated the rolling stock at the first target appeared to be stymied by a destroyed bridge.
The four B-25 Mitchells assigned to this mission returned from the coast in two separate flights, each with two planes. They encountered thick clouds and storms just after crossing the China coast, and it worsened as they proceeded northwest toward their home field. Over the aircraft radios they learned the airfields at Yangkai and Kunming were both closed in with clouds and rain, they were instructed to contact air control at Mengtz (about 65 miles southeast of Kunming) and try to land there. Attempts to utilize Radio Direction Finding assistance for the planes, trying to guide then into a point where they might see the airfield at Mengtze, was mostly unsuccessful. The crew of the lead plane in the first flight of two were ordered to bail out just as the first engine quit due to lack of fuel before they could find a place to land. The pilot was the only one injured in the bailout; he incurred a broken ankle when landed. The wing plane happened to get a break in the clouds and spotted the airfield just as the pilot was preparing to make a crash landing. Although they landed safely, they barely had enough fuel left to taxi into the parking area at Mengtze.
Neither plane in the second flight, which included the Mitchell with Cpl. Campbell aboard, was also unable to visually identify the airfield.
"We took off from Yangkai in a B-25G at 1025, flew south to a position of twenty miles inland and fifty miles south of Vinh in Indo-China. We turned east for a sea sweep. When we went out to sea the left engine had blown two cylinders and was smoking a little. Couldn't find anything at sea so made a large circle to north and west and came over land again at a point north of Than Hoa. There we bombed and strafed rolling stock and steam engine and repair sheds and a train on a siding.
"We then turned north toward home base. When we bypassed Hanoi the engine trouble became serious and we were told to put on parachutes then. Crossed the "bomb line" at abut 1740 hours and began looking for an emergency landing strip at Mengtze. Went down into a valley and couldn't find the field, the pilot then called us to prepare for ditching the ship. He headed down for a small lake just before the ship got down both engines ran out of gas, came in dead stick at 95 mph. The ship landed in the water at 1750.
"None of the crew was seriously hurt in landing. Got out of the ship with only a small cut on my head. Ship stayed afloat only two and one half minutes. Got on the rubber raft, rowed to shore where some friendly natives took us to the village where we spent the night. Being all wet we spent a very uncomfortable night. The crew of another ship out of the formation crashed on the shore of the same lake and they spent the night with us. Next day we got out to the road where we "found" some American infantry men, they had trucks and took us to Wonshau. There they gave us a good meal and a wood bed for that night.
"Next day we started for Amichow by weapons carrier, at least an eight hour ride. Arrived at Amichow at about 1700 25 Feb. Had a very good meal and a good bed. Got up early next morning, had breakfast at 0600, loaded onto the train for Kunming at 0700. Rode for eleven and one half hours, arriving in Kunming at 1830 on the 26th. "
The pilot of the plane leading the second flight also ran out of gas but was able to belly land his plane. This was the crew which Campbell mentioned landing on the shore the lake.
At the end of March, Corporal Campbell joined the salvage crew and returned to the scene of his forced landing, 75 miles west of Amichow, China. There had been no time to recover any of the valuable equipment because of the rapid sinking of the plane. They were going to do so, and Cpl, Campbell would photographically document the action.