Ghosts of The Hump

During WWII, the thankless task of running the airlift over the Himalayas from India to China to supply KMT units fighting the Japanese was known as flying “The Hump.” Beginning in 1942 with a scratch force, by 1945 more than 600 aircraft were schlepping 71,000 tons a month, dedicated to the mission of keeping the Chinese in the war– which in turn tied down over 1.5 million of the Emperor’s troops.

A C-46A en route to China over the Himalayas. The job started with the 10th Air Force and morphed until the China National Aviation Corporation was carrying most of the cargo (U.S. Air Force photo)

It was not without cost, with over 500 aircraft lost or missing in the treacherous effort and 800 Allied personnel killed or never heard from again.

From the Hump Pilots Association:

Severe weather existed on the Hump almost year around. The monsoon season, with heavy cloudiness, fierce rain and embedded severe thunderstorms with turbulence severe enough to damage aircraft, existed from around May into October of each year. The late fall and winter flying weather was better with many VFR days. However, heavy ground fogs, with ground visibilities down to zero/zero, occurred almost nightly during the early winter, and severe thunderstorms still occurred over the route on an irregular basis. Winter winds aloft were extreme, often exceeding 100MPH. Most night flying had to be done by instruments from takeoff due to lack of any ground or horizon references, until well into western China.

Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Commander, U.S. Forces – China, said that “Flying the ‘Hump’ was the foremost and by far the most dangerous, difficult and historic achievement of the entire war.”

And it looks like the Indian Army has located one of the lost flights:

“Based on the information received from local trekkers of Lower Dibang district, troops from #IndianArmy discovered the wreckage of a World War II vintage US Air Force aircraft in Roing district of Arunachal Pradesh. The 12 member patrol successfully carried out the arduous task on 30 Mar 2019. The patrol located the aircraft debris covered by thick undergrowth and deeply buried under five feet of snow. The patrol moved cross country for 30 kilometers in thick jungles and snow covered areas for eight days to trace out the wreckage. The region had seldom been ventured by anyone in the past and is even obscured from the air due to thick foliage.”

Hopefully, it is a plane that the crew was able to bail out of near a populated area and it went down miles later. If not, the fine men and women of the DPAA will bring them home with honor, and provide closure to their families.

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