Memories of Cargo

Willard 'Bill' Mumford

"Preserving the memory of his sacrifices!"

( editor: The following is compiled from various emails we received from Bill Mumford. He was been kind enough to give us permission to share it with you! Bill first wrote us in August of 1996. )

    "I am a veteran of WW II, of the Air Transport Command and one of the pilots that flew the Hump to carry supplies (gas, bombs, ammunition, etc.) to Yankai and a number of other bases in China. A B-25 squadron was based at my air strip, Myitkyina South, in Burma. The B-25s did marvelous work in the CBI and deserved any commendations or awards they got. I was fortunate enough to live through over 100 trips across the Hump, earned the airmedal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal with 3 battle stars. I'm proud that I was able to support the people like your father who helped keep over one million Jap. troops so busy in China that they couldn't be on the Pacific islands to fight against the American boys who did that magnificent job.
    I certainly wish you all success in your search and join you in respect for your Dad. Congratulations on your Web Site!
    'A toast to the host of the Men we boast, the Army Air Corps'. I carry that song in my heart at all times."
( editor: What follows is information Bill shared with us over the nearly four years that we "met" across the internet!)

I flew the Gooney Bird over the Hump, flew the C-46 in Africa and the Middle East. Stationed at Cairo, same airfield where Sadat was assasinated. Climbed the Great Pyramid at Gisa twice, was trying to climb the Sphynx when the cops caught me and made me get down. It was legal to climb the pyramid but a reall No-No to climb on the Sphynx! I think I would have been happier over the Hump in the C-46 - with a full load, and we never flew at less than full load, the C-47 would only get 14,500 altitude. That was only a few thousand below the tops of the mountains. Guess you could say we flew through, not over!

   There was quite a difference between the C-46 and C-47. The C-46 had two R-2800 engines putting out 2000 horse power each and was the largest 2-engine plane in existence at that time. The C-47 had two R-1830 engines of about 1100 horse power. The big bird (referred to by most of us as Dumbo) had a gross take-off weight of some 50,000 pounds while the 47 took off at about 33,000 pounds. These are both listed weights and actual was frequently quite a bit more than that. I'm told that in CBI C-46s operated at about 52,000 or 53,000 pounds. The C-46 used the same engines as the B-29, I think The cockpit of the 46 was 16 feet above the ground, the 47 about 10 feet I remember the first B-29 I saw. I was in the cockpit of a C-46 at Miami when we taxied past one and looked down on it! .

   They were both "Tail Draggers" but the 46 had fully retractable gear while the 47 only eased the main gear up partially in the engine nacelles and the tail wheel always was out.. The wings of the 47 were constructed to flex in rough air (looked like FLAP to me!). The 46 was solid as a rock. The huge rudder made taxiing in a cross wind a two man job. The 47 was a dream to fly, we jokingly called it "The Twin-breasted Cub" and when empty would sometimes spin it on the way back from China. It would pull itself out of a spin after about one turn, would always make that one turn spin if you stalled it and didn't ride the rudder to make it come down straight.

   As you can well imagine, the C-46 took more take off and landing run than the "Gooney Bird". My squadron flew into places along the Burma Road with equipment, Bailey Bridge material and fuel for trucks and generators that the C-46s just couldn't handle. We had one strip 1200 feet long at 9,000 feet elevation that we went in to regularly. Even in North Africa and the Middle East we pulled full power on take- off on the 46s. Obviously full power was pulled on both in CBI!

   Those big engines gave the 46 another advantage - it would hold altitude at fairly high elevation on one engine. The 47 wouldn't hold a decent altitude on one as I found out the hard way by losing one over the Salween Ridge on solid instruments one day. My co-pilot and radio operator jettisoned 15 drums of Avgas in a much shorter time than I believed possible. We lost altitude all the way back to Myitkyina and only had a few miles and a few hundred feet to spare when we got back. Fortunately the tower gave us a straight in approach! They told us that a 46 could actually take off on one engine when empty at essentially sea level. I personaly wouldn't want to try it.

   My base in Africa was the 1264th AAFBU outside of Cairo called, Payne Field. That field was given to the Egyptians after the warand was where Anwar Sadat was assasinated many years later. Normal trip was Cairo to Abadan, Iran, RON, on to Karachi, India, RON, back to Abadan, RON and return to Cairo. When we could we'd volunteer ro take the Desert Run out of Karachi. That took us to some little British base in western India, to Sharja Peninsula in Oman, to Bahrain Island, some times to Kuwait and on to Abadan. If we got the Desert Run out of Abadan we'd go to Habaniya, Iraq, Bagdhad, Lyda, Palestine (Tel Aviv) and on to Cairo. That gave us longer flying hours and would have brought us up to rotation faster! They named us Dumbo Airlines NAFD and The Rocket Run. Our jacket patch was much like the ATC patch but had a pink elephant with rockets strapped to his back and feet. At the bottom it said "49,900 Gross". That was a joke, Son! We figured from the way they handled we probably had several thousand more pounds than 49,900. We used a lot of runway on take-off. At Myitkyina we had contests to see who could be highest when we passed the tower on take-off, about half way down the 4200 foot strip.

   My base in CBI was 1348th AAFBU, Myitkyina South in Burma. (There was also Myitkyina North, East and West air strips. West was a ComCar base, east was a Black Widow Night Fighter base. Now I'm not sure there was a Myitkyina North!) We flew in on about January 30, 1945 with 20 C-47s, 40 crews and all of our tents, etc. to activate the base. We had to team up with tent mates and erect our 9x9 pyramidal tents before we could go to bed that night. I picked 1st. Lt. George E. Jarkey as a tent mate since we had flown together some in Africa and had been transferred from Cairo to Karachi then to Barackpore (1304th AAFBU) together. When we found ourselves needing a tent we decided to do it together. George is today my best friend and the only WW II buddy I still contact. He and his wife will be here to visit for a week or so early next month. I razzed him about "that girl back home" all through those months and was best man at their wedding in March of 1946. I was in contact with the other pilot on the flight overseas until he died of cancer in 1994. We later added an annex to our tent and let Lt. Charles McLucas sleep there.

   We had a Tent Boy named Abdul Raschid who did our laundry, shined our shoes, made our cots (canvas folding cots, I used my fur-lined flight suit for a mattress until it rotted away and I couldn't stand the smell!). Abdul was actually older than we were, married, had 5 kids. The Brittish wouldn't let us pay him more than 10 Rupees (about $3) a month so we kept him in cigarettes, candy for his kids and anything else we could buy or scrounge that he or his family could use Don't know how he could exist on $9 a month. (3 of us paid him 10 Rupees a month.) When I left I gave him all my sheets off the cot, all of my summer uniforms except one that I wore to come home in, all my socks, my G.I. shoes and anything else he wanted that I didn't bring home. He guessed the sheets would be worth about $800 on the black market, to be used to make clothes out of. I have often wondered what became of Abdul. He was a very nice gentleman, thought we were all rich but lectured us on our bad ways. He was Mohammedan, of course, and by his standards we were pretty bad, drank beer, ate pork (if we could get it) and so forth. I showed him a picture of my '31 Chevy convertable that I bought for 15 bucks and he really thought I was rich to have a fancy car like that!

   I made my first trip to China on February 3, 1945 and my last trip on August 8, 1945. During that time I flew 509 hours and 30 minutes "operational" time and 30 hours and 30 minutes of "Other CBI" time. When added to 382 hours and 50 minutes of "other theater" time the total got me on rotation. I was on the last rotation flight out of India. Every one who left after that came home by boat! Interesting to me, and maybe nobody else, is the fact that we took C-46A Number 4346964 out of Nashville, TN on July 14, 1944 and delivered it to Marrakesh, Morocco in August 20,. 1944.. C-46A No. 4346964 carried me as a passenger from Karachi, India to Cairo on my way home in September 1945! The crew out of Nashville was Lt. George A. Snedeker,( pilot), Lt. Willard G. Mumford, (co-pilot), PFC Richard E. Melander, (engineer) and PFC Floyd W. Churn (radio operator). It took us from July 14, 1944 until August 20, 1944 to get from Nashville to Marrakesh. It was a real "Hangar Queen". We made emergency landings in Jacksonville, FL, Nassau, Bahamas and spent a long time at Morrison Field at Palm Beach, FL because they discovered the factory had left out the main cabin braces when it was built. If it had been 3-pointed with a full load it would have broken in half at the cargo door!. Instead of having the factory send down braces they had the metals shop at Morrison make braces! That was the one and only trip when I flew with an engineer. At Miami before we left the States they added a navigator to the crew. He got us lost over the South Atlantic and when we landed at Ascension Island we ran out of gas on the runway. They had to tow that heap off of the runway. I warned the crew about it out of Karachi on the way home - we made an emergency landing at Lyda, Palestine! The pilot said I had jinxed him. I never saw Melander or Churn again after we landed at Marrakesh. Never saw C.B. Morgan, the navigator, again either but he did call my wife and tell her we had arrived in North Africa safely.

    Hope you are flying The Grad Old Flag today. I have mine up and waving in the Santa Maria breeze, there are 4 others on our street. Seems not too many give a darn about the DAY anymore. Some don't even know what the day means.

    I'm very impressed with the work you have put in to the tribute to the 491st, Tony. Those are great pictures of crew, etc. I suspect they were taken from your Dad's memoribilia I should have taken more pictures of the guys in the squadron than I did. I only have a very few of the ones that were closest to George and me, mostly taken the day we set up our tents at Myitkyina South. Too late now and I don't know where but 2 other members of the squadron are at this late date. Knew about 3 but one took the last ride this past winter. It would have helped if we had been "crewed" instead of just flying with the next name on the roster, first in, first out. (Unless you cheated as George and I did as operations officer - we'd move our names around so we could fly co-pilot for each other. That was a no-no but the chief pilot never caught on to how we did it. He wasn't too swift mentally.

    I also intend to send an email to Clifton Specht whose father was RO on a C-46 in the 322 Troop Carrier Squadron. I can give him some info on the old Dumbo but can't find the list of specs I have someplace in the mess I call my computer room. It was the biggest 2-engine aircraft in the world at that time, 2 big R-2800 engines each producing 2000 HP. It had a gross take off weight of 50,000 pounds, not very much by today's standars is it? If he can tell me where his father was stationed maybe I can give him names and addresses of some of the men that were in the squadron. Some may be members of the ATC Hump Pilots,Ltd. that I belong to, but our roster doesn't give squadron or AAFBU identification, only the base name. Your Dad's base would be identified only as Yankai, not as the 491st. "Flying the Hump in World War II Color" would give him a lot of info, for sure.

    Thanks for forwarding that message from Edward Honey. He probably would have always wondered why I didn't answer him. I did send him a note this morning to give him the story about how we could be at Myitkyina and not know the other one existed. He was apparently at Myitkyina West Strip and I was at Myitkyina South Strip. There was also a Myitkyina East Strip. West was a Combat Cargo squadron, East was Night Fighter Squadron (identical twins who were in flight training with me were based there, one was killed there. The Commanding Officer was Col. Phil Cochran, most famous as Fl;ip Corkin in Terry and the Pirates, a real character. They flew P-61s) South was an ATC base, not TCC so he may not have known much about South. Mean, maybe, but we referred to Combat Cargo as "Comical Cargo" for some reason. They flew C-47s also but as far as I know not over the Hump, mostly ground support and air drop missions. We did some air drop but mostly the Hump.

    Those night fighter boys were a bunch of clowns. They would use our C-47s for practice at night. You think you didn't need a change of shorts after one of those black bastards went past your nose about 10 feet away in the pitch black and solid cloud? Cochran thought it was funny. So did Bill McWhirk, my friend. Never did know how he was killed, a mistake, a Zero, whatever. Wish I knew where his twin brother was. They were real nice guys. Bill and his fiance were good friends of Pat and me here at primary and at Basic at Lemoore, CA. He went to a different Advanced and wound up in P-61s while I went to the ATC.

(editor: The holiday season of 1997 was especially good for Bill, on 27-DEC-97 I received this message from him.)

    I don't believe what was delivered to my house yesterday afternoon by FedEx! It is a wall hanging about 18X30 inches, all beautifully matted with the dust cover of the book with my jacket in it, the proof page of my jacket, the original photos of my jacket used in the book and autographed by both Jon Maguire and John Conway, the authors. Also in the package was an autographed copy of their second book, " Art of the Flight Jacket", subtitled "Classic Leather Jackets of World War II". John Conway had phoned me and told me to be on the lookout for a package but I didn't expect anything as great as this is. It will sure be mounted on my wall, probably over my computer so I can see it every day that I work on the computer. I'm having trouble believing they did it.

    I told John that I would send him the officer's cap I wore on most of those Hump flights, the one with the 50,000 hour crush, to go with the jacket since he has it in his personal collection. I'll see if there are any other little things in the box in the back of the closet that he might like to have. Not only is my jacket in a collection of someone who cares for it but now I need to get to Kansas City to meet him in person. He must have talked for 45 minutes on the phone the other day, his nickel. Jon Maguire called me one day a year or so ago so I have talked to both of them. Conway is on the internet so I have contated him by Email a couple of times.

    This all came about because one of our neighbors visited his son in Maine and the son had a copy of the 1st book. Sam saw my jacket in the book, told me about it and I got a copy of the book. I'd have never known the book existed if Sam hadn't gone to see his son and happened to see my jacket. Strange things happen in this weird world!

( editor: Bill just kept coming up with valuable tidbits of information.)

George told me about a video called "C-47's at War" and I got my copy yesterday. Just got through watching the video and consider it a must for anyone who had anything to do with Gooney Birds during the war. Old movies of C-47 operations in Europe, Africa, South Pacific and the CBI. It showed how Merrill's Marauders took the landing strip south of Myitkyina, Burma and changed the course of the war for Burma. That is the strip the Air Force named the 1348th AAFBU and called it Myitkyina South. There was also Myitkyina North and West. One month after they took the strip a fella named George Jarkey and I put up a tent just off the strip and lived in it while we flew the Hump. That started a lasting partnership and relationship!

    It shows about everything the C-47 did, glider tow, troop carrier, combat cargo, mules, Chinese troops, jungle strips, etc. and really took me for a spin down memory lane. Pat was very interested also since she has heard some of it and thought it was funny to see them loading mules. That was funny but it wasn't so funny when they started raising hell in the air.

    Refers to the C-47 as "huge cargo planes" - a laugh since the C-46 was the largest 2 engine plane in the world at the time and we couldn't carry our own weight in freight. Many times we put most of the gas we took over back in our wings to get us home against the jet stream. Lots of times I logged about 30 mph in ground speed going home. They showed them loading half ton bombs - if we had carried any that big we'd have had to stop at maybe 3. We could only carry about 4000 pounds of cargo, had a gross take off weight of about 32,000 pounds.

    The video is available from American Sound and Video, 1-800-869-6379 if you are interested. It costs $19.95 plus $3.00 for priority mail.

    Had another long phone conversation with John Conway, author of the jacket book first of the week. He sent me a copy of a book titled "Flight to Everywhere" by a guy named Ivan Dmitri. Dmitri got special dispensation from big brass to fly as a passenger to just about every ATC base in the world then wrote this book in 1944. I made it to most of the places he went but didn't hob-nob with the big brass the way he did and got to some places he didn't go. It was a real shock to receive the book. It is a 1st edition, 3rd printing but in excellent condition. Haven't had time to read all of the text yet but will get it read. I may have been in Cairo when he went through. Some of what he says is a little bit hokey but I expected that. After all he didn't experience what Ed Strotman and I did so how could he not get a little hokey! He spent the whole trip as a passenger, apparently all in C-87s although he constantly refers to them as B-24s. The photos are not 24s, no armament.

    Had to have a tire repaired yesterday, picked up a nail. While waiting a guy came up to me and asked if I had been in the CBI. (I was wearing my A2 jacket with the Air Force and CBI patches on the shoulders) Turns out he was a crew man on C-109s out of India to China. We called them C-One-Oh-Booms because of their tendency to go BOOM in flight. He no doubt had flown into Yankai, said he'd keep in touch, I'll ask him if he does.

The end of our presentation and, due to his unfortunate passing on 28 Sep 2000, we must await our final mission before we again enjoy Bill, waxing eloquently.

"TAPS" for you, Bill, my email friend!!

HUMP Flyer

The Hump Flyer
a website by Tony Strotman.
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      This web site is provided as a public service.   It is intended to provide factual, historical information to the public, to commemorate the contributions and to preserve the memory of the sacrifices of our World War II veterans serving with U.S. Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India theater.   Permission is required for any commercial use or mass distribution purposes of the copyrighted material.