Bill Masters C46 Pilot
Flying the Hump
Prologue: The "Hump" operation took place because the Japanese had taken eastern China, including all the seaports and were advancing west to conquer all of China and then India. China needed supplies to stop the Japanese. The only deterrent was the AVG with their P-40's. Madam Chang Kai-Shek convinced President Roosevelt to fly supplies to China and build a land route to China. This project involved taking all pilots in between assignments and sending them to India to fly C-46's over the Hump. The first Hump flight by the Air Force was Dec. 1, 1942. These flights lasted 1,074 days with the loss of 667 transport planes and 1021 airmen.
Webmaster: When were you born?
September 2, 1919 in Portland, Oregon.
Webmaster: Did you grow up and go to school in Portland?
Yes, through high school.
Webmaster: How did you get into flying?
During my [college] senior year I took a Civilian Pilot Training course and learned to fly in Piper Cubs. I also volunteered for the Army Air Corps in early 1941. On September 29, 1941, I became an Air Corps Flying Cadet at Santa Maria, California.
In primary, we flew Stearman Bi-Wing planes and PT-15's, flying all kinds of acrobatics, loops, spins, slow rolls, snap rolls, etc. On Sunday, December 7, I was at a movie with a girlfriend when the show was interrupted by an announcement that all military personnel were to return to base immediately.
From Santa Maria, I went on to basic training at Merced, CA. The weather was so bad that right after New Year's we were all transferred to Victorville, CA. This base was not yet completed but the runway was operational and the barracks were completed. We used dry lakebeds as auxiliary fields. After basic it was on to Mather Field, Sacramento for advanced training in North American AT-6's, where we did a great deal of formation flying, day and night.
On April 24, 1942, I graduated from advanced, was sworn in as a 2nd Lieutenant, received my silver wings and was granted a two week vacation. I was married Dec. 1 and we went to Sacramento, where I was flying navigation cadets in the twin engine Beech AT-7. Our time together didn't last long, as I was transferred to Fort Worth, Texas to check out in the B-24 Liberator in about June of 1943. After a week, I was sent to Boca Raton, Florida.
Webmaster: Was it at this time you were assigned to the CBI?
Madam Chang Kai-Shek had convinced President Roosevelt that the U.S. had to do something to help China, which was being overrun by the Japanese. He had pilots in-between assignments sent to India to fly supplies over the "Hump". We were flown to South America, Ascension Island, Africa, and to Karachi, India, where I arrived on June 17, 1943, then to Gaya, India to check out in the Curtis Commando C-46 Cargo plane. The "C" stood for Cargo. We were there until October 11, 1943 and only had one flight in the C-46 (too many pilots and only one plane). From Gaya in Central India, I was sent to Sookerating in the Assam Valley, elevation 90', and a tea plantation area. My first mission was on October 16, 1943.
The C-46 had two Pratt and Whitney R2800 engines, 2,000 Horsepower each, and Curtiss 4-Bladed steel electric propellers. Gross weight 48,000-50,000 lbs., usable load 8,000-12,000 lbs., speed 240-245 MPH. The Curtiss Commando was bigger than a B-17, except the number of engines and total horsepower. Its length was 76' and wing span 108'.
The Air Transport Command (ATC) took over Hump flying on December 1, 1942. The Hump Operation lasted 1,074 days. A total of 667 transport planes and 1,021 airmen were lost during this period. Other planes lost totaled 526 for a total of 1,193 planes lost - about one per day. In the last six months of 1943, there were 155 accidents and 168 fatalities.
The Hump between India (Assam Valley) which was 90' above sea level to Kunming, China was a 500 mile trip. The mountains rise quickly to 10,000. The upper Chindwin River Valley was bound on the East by a 14,000' ridge, then a series of ridges 14,000' to 16,000' were separated by the valleys of the W. Irrawaddy, E. Irrawaddy, Salween, and Mekong Rivers. The Santsung range between the Salween and Mekong Rivers was 15,000'.
Webmaster: I understand weather was your biggest enemy?
The Monsoon season lasted six months with the worst season between June 1 and mid September. The area received 200" of rain. Cold air pulsing down the S.W. slopes [of the Himalayas] collided with the warm moist air generated over the Bay of Bengal, causing torrential rain, unbelievable cumulus cloud build-up, thunder storms and winds of 150 MPH. Planes were almost uncontrollable in this turbulence and were pushed thousands of feet up (6,000 feet in one minute) and then dropped down by this turbulence. It took both pilots on the controls to control the plane. Between the time of a trip over and the trip back, the wind could shift 180 degrees and wind velocity could change by as much as 100 MPH. Wing icing and carburetor icing were both serious problems. This weather made flying the Hump very dangerous. We often had a ground fog. We could take off, loaded, when we could see five runway lights, so we went down the runway watching our wing tip light to keep it lined up with the runway lights as they went by. Once off the ground we were on instruments. It was standard operating procedure to take off and build up airspeed to 120 MPH. On instruments, this resulted in the pilot dropping the nose of the plane too soon and flying the plane back into the ground. After two fatal crashes, I learned this by simulating an instrument take-off in good weather. The pilot had to keep the nose up until well above the ground before trying to build up airspeed.
After six flights I knew I could fly better than the First Pilots I was flying with and I got the Operations Officer to designate me as a First Pilot. The First Pilot I had been flying with would take off his oxygen mask a lot in order to smoke. The next flight he made resulted in a crash with all killed. He flew into the ground short of the runway. I am sure that oxygen deprivation affected his vision causing this crash.
In a cold front, ice would accumulate on the props and as we entered warmer air large chunks of ice would be thrown off the props with great force against the plane just behind our seats in the cockpit. The noise was deafening. On other occasions we experienced St. Elmo's fire. There were circles of fire at the ends of the propellers and the windshield seemed to be on fire.
When we landed at Sookerating with ground fog, we could see the runway at 100' of altitude and could line up with the runway but as we came down into the fog we could not see the ground. We would bleed off our airspeed, raise the nose, and then drop the nose to keep flying and keep feeling for the ground. When the airspeed dropped off to landing speed and the control wheel was all the way back the plane would stall and we would hope that we were almost on the runway. Some of these landings were quite a jar.
Webmaster: Did you encounter Japanese planes during these trips?
On December 12, 1943 at dawn on a trip over, I saw a formation of Japanese planes south of me. They did not see me as looking in my direction it was still dark, but they were silhouetted against the lighter sky.
Webmaster: You told me you were forced to bail out at one time. When was this?
It was on my 21st trip over the Hump where we lost an engine and had to bail out. [The description of what happened afterward appeared in a letter to Bill Masters' wife Mary. I have placed excerpts of this event at the end of this interview].
On a subsequent trip Ray Benson, a first pilot, was flying co-pilot and I was first pilot. In the landing pattern over Kunming our instruments told us the wheels were down but not locked. Then one engine started to cut out. I told Ray we would come in fast, touch the wheels down to lock them, then land. When we touched down, with throttles back to land, Ray pushed the throttles forward to take off and I pulled them back because of our engine problem. We bounced in the air and bounced again and by the time we got on the ground we ran out of runway. I braked left and hit a revetment with the left wheel which turned us to the left and when we went off the end of the runway our right wheel went down the side of a very large irrigation ditch and our wing hit the other side of the ditch and 100 octane gas came streaming out of our broken wing tanks. (We also had many 50-gallon drums of 100 octane as cargo.) I bailed out again but only about eight feet down this time. Later inspection proved we had a faulty engine.
In October, 1944, after 87 round trips, I was sent home. We flew to Casablanca, then because of storms in the Atlantic we took an aircraft carrier to New York. The storm bent the flight deck and tore off some catwalks on the outside of the ship. I didn't eat very much on this trip. We anchored off shore and had to wait until the next day to disembark. I took a train west and settled into the club car with my high top boots and khaki shirt and pants. I was so relieved to be back in the USA that I started to cry. The civilian guys and girls would come over and pat me on the back and offer a drink, which just made me cry longer. At Denver I caught an A.F. plane going to Seattle. The pilot was an ex Hump pilot and when he learned that I was just coming home he landed at Portland to let me off.
My next assignment was the Air Transport Command, Ferry Command at Long Beach, CA. Our primary job was to fly new P-51's from the factory in Inglewood, CA to Newark, N.J. where they were shipped to England. I also flew the P-38, P61 (night fighter), P-63, P40, P47, P-39, B-25, and an old B-18, C-47 (the DC-3 of civilian lore). I also instructed in the C-47 and B-25.
One day in a B-25 when my student was doing follow through landings and takeoffs (land then advance throttle and take off without stopping) a piston blew out the side of one engine when he advanced the throttle. My training took over and without a thought I feathered the prop on the bad engine (so it wouldn't windmill) advanced the throttle on the good engine, trimmed the controls to control yaw and took off and landed with no problem.. During our ferrying from coast to coast we would sometimes fly very low and watch all the horses, cows, and chickens go all directions. Once in N.J. we normally went to N.Y. and caught an airline ride back to California. On December 19, 1945, I was released from my duties and returned to Portland.
Webmaster: Thank you for your time and service to our country
Bailout - William J. Masters
Excerpts from a letter by Bill Masters to his wife Mary after returning to safety, recounting his bail out adventure. The flight originated in Sookerating.
At 1930 Jan.15, 1944, after being briefed and receiving our manifest, clearance and parachutes, Lt. Vansteenberg, co-pilot, PFC Don Montgomery, radio operator, and I were driven through rain to our ship. Coolies were still busy loading our cargo aboard, so Van and I found a dry seat in a truck nearby where we could smoke. It was Van's second trip over and his second with me, so we started talking of flying, which ended up on the bad weather, and we both decided it was the kind of night we would rather spend at a movie with our wives than flying transports.
When our cargo was loaded, we climbed aboard and started the engines. PFC Ralph Divoky was our engineer. The tower cleared us to the runway and we ran up the engines for a check. The right magneto on the right engine cutout twice, but finally checked OK, Gyros checked; we took off at 2000. Around 5,000 feet we started hitting scattered clouds which became thicker as we circled over the field, and we were impelled to fly by instruments. Although we would get a glimpse of the ground at times, I ordered the crew to buckle their parachutes on; it was the first time I had ever taken this precaution.
At 14,000 feet I started out on course, flying instruments, and broke out on top of the overcast in the bright moonlight at 18,500 feet and leveled out. Our windshield was covered with ice on the inside, so Van took over the controls while I scraped a small hole in the ice and sent Divoky back for some deicing fluid. Through the hole I could see the clouds were built up in front of us, so I told Van to climb up to 19,000 feet and advanced the propeller controls, throttles and mixture controls for him. A few seconds later I glanced at the compass and saw we were flying way off course. I pulled up my oxygen mask and asked Van what the hell was the matter and pointed to the compass.
Talking was difficult at the high altitude because we had to take our oxygen mask off. He replied that he thought an engine was out. I glanced at the airspeed, which read 110 MPH and took over the controls, changed gas tanks, put on carburetor heat, and trimmed the ship for single engine flight. Divoky asked if he should throw out our cargo and I told him we didn't have time and our cargo was too heavy to move, but to be ready to bail out instead. We were losing altitude 800 feet per minute and many of the peaks in this area were 15,000 feet high. I told Montgomery to turn the radio compass on Ledo and call in our approximate position, also that we were in trouble. The radio compass was useless because of interference. I told the crew we would bail out at 16,000 feet. My hands were full flying the ship - in those two or three minutes I had to try and get the inoperative engine started, determine our position, and make the decision as the when to bail out.
When we were still losing altitude fast I gave the order to leave the ship. We were at 15,000 feet, Montgomery radioed in that we were jumping at 2133 and went to the back of the ship. I glanced at Van and waited a second for him to go and when he didn't, I got out of my seat and headed for the back. Divoky and Montgomery were standing by the open door. We were out of control and losing altitude fast, and might crash into a mountain any second. I looked at them and yelled "let's go" as I ran out the door.
All in an instant I saw the tail of the ship go by my head, felt the cool air on my face and pulled the ripcord. The next thing I remember was the stillness - after the few minutes of confusion in the airplane, there I was suspended in the night sky somewhere between India and China, clapping my hands together to keep them warm and humming to myself. Then I heard someone shouting and shouted back to them. It was nice to know that I wasn't alone out there. Then all of a sudden the stillness was broken again. Above my head I saw the airplane break out of the clouds with the lights still on and start down towards us with a roar. It swooped by and disappeared, only to re-appear a few seconds later, and roar by us again. I thought to myself--I would probably die up there alone, but what the hell. That "what the hell" attitude is a good one to have sometimes. Then the ship crashed almost directly beneath us, burned a few seconds and exploded, lighting up the ground and sky. I tried to catch a landmark and did see a light strip that was a riverbed surrounded by mountains. I also twisted my head and saw a parachute slightly above me. It was swinging like a pendulum in what appeared to be an 180-degree arc, which might account for our impression that the airplane was doing wingovers before it crashed. We yelled at each other some more after the fire went out.
A gust of wind that caused the stitching on my parachute harness to rip loose gave me another scare. While I was looking below me for the ground it suddenly appeared, as a green blur of trees. In the same second I was crashing down through the foliage and sitting on the ground in the undergrowth. For some reason I felt that it was imperative for me to get out of my chute immediately, and I quickly unbuckled the straps, jumped up and then realized it was so dark I couldn't take a step. I sat down again. Here I was, alone in the jungle - what to do? While thinking it over I heard a yell that came from above me on the mountain and I yelled back, although I was afraid we might be in Jap territory.
I wanted to move around, so I opened my jungle kit and stuffed everything in my pockets, then cut the shrouds on my chute and pulled it down from the trees and spread it out on the ground a few feet away. I lit matches and tried to see what the jungle looked like, but their flame didn't throw much light in the dense jungle and they wouldn't keep burning. Then while stumbling around in the dark I grabbed hold of a Junabe plant and got my hand full of thorns. That finished my explorations for the night, and I wrapped myself in my chute and tried to sleep.
If the rain didn't keep my awake the noise did. I cocked my .45 and laid it beside me - then I couldn't sleep because I was afraid I would shoot myself. It was a very lonely night and I was relieved when the jungle around me began to light up. At intervals during the night the person up the mountain and I had exchanged yells, but we couldn't understand each other's words. About 0500, I had given up sleep and was waiting for the faint light in the sky to penetrate the jungle. As soon as I could see, I collected my things and headed up the mountain in the direction of the shouts. I guess the excitement, cold and lack of sleep had drained my strength and I found myself panting for breath as I crawled and stumbled up the mountain. Soon the shouting seemed right next to me, but I couldn't see anybody, and after retracing my steps several times, I sat down to rest. The person was our engineer Divoky. In a few minutes he said that he could see me almost directly underneath him.
Sure enough, there he was up in a tree about 60 feet off the ground. I warned him to be careful and to crawl down. We found his knife, which he had dropped during the night and started back, for my parachute, which we cut in two and wrapped around our waists. Divoky's parachute was too far up in the trees for us to get; later we learned that our rescuers had seen the chute, which led them to our approximate position.
We followed an animal path along the top of the ridge in the direction of the river in hopes of catching a glimpse of some landmark while still up high. I did see a snowcapped peak but nothing else to establish our position. We walked north an hour or so and finally decided to go down the mountain to our right and get on the river. The country was very rough - thick jungle, vines and matted vegetation. At times we would lie on our stomachs and crawl, or sit down and slide on the seat of our pants. The slopes were steep and the moist rocks dangerous if stepped on. Our legs were weak, and I didn't want any sprained ankles or broken legs.
While we were descending rocky slopes, one of us would go down 25 yards and get a safe position to avoid being hit by rocks loosened by the other on his descent. In places we had to get a solid footing and roll like in a flying block playing football, until we sank through the branches and vines, then pull ourselves up again and repeat the process over and over. Just before reaching the river we found pieces of a parachute and cigarette butts under a log. Van smoked Phillip Morris, as I'd found out the night before, so we knew he had parachuted down and was unhurt. About 200 yards further on we came to the creek, so we took our clothes off to dry, picked off a few ticks and sat down in the sun to rest.
About half an hour later we heard something coming through brush in our direction. I grabbed my .45 and waited for whatever was coming. Whom should appear but Montgomery, looking very tired, but happy to find us. He had GI shoes and flying boots on. Divoky had been wearing low shoes when he bailed out and he had lost both of them when his chute jerked open. All that day he had walked on pieces of the parachute tied onto his feet with shroud lines - now he could wear Montgomery's flying boots. I had an oversized pair of English army shoes, which were only a few days old. While we were sitting by the stream I decided to try out the fishing tackle, so rigged up a pole and line. Finally I caught a five inch fish which I cooked on a rock and ate everything but the eyes. Towards evening we found a sandy spot, some poles, and built a primitive tent. That night it rained, and our tent sagged down on us and the rain soaked through clear to our skin.
On the 16th. we started walking down the river at daybreak. Occasionally we saw a footprint in the sand or a piece of parachute silk lying on a rock. It was good to know that all four of us were safe and headed in the same direction. We walked all day and made camp again along the river, gathering a pile of driftwood for a fire and putting up our tent over a patch of sand. The first night we had tended the fire in four-hour watches but found that two of us were usually awake anyway, so decided to sleep when we could. It was so cold that we couldn't sleep more than an hour at a time. Divoky and I would talk most of the night, but Montgomery never seemed to move or wake up. It made us jealous when we couldn't get to sleep.
On the 17th. we started out again at 0700 and at 0900 came upon Vansteenberg just getting ready to start his day's walking, so now all four of us were together. Van had lost one shoe and one flying boot in his jump and the remaining shoe was in bad shape, so our pace showed down somewhat. That night we got a little more organized. Divoky, Montgomery and I gathered firewood while Van cut tent poles; then I built the fire while the other three put up the tent. We always had a debate as to which spot was the best to sleep on and how to put up our tents more efficiently. Every night we learned a little more through experience and our shelter improved. We found that it was best to put up a good tent even if it took more time, because then we could keep dry and get more sleep.
Our parachute kits each contained a bush knife, oil stone, mechanic's cap, quinine and atabrine pills, matches, leggings, mosquito net for the head, and fishing line. All of us had .45's with a shoulder holster except Divoky. We weren't bothered by mosquitoes but kept the stuff in case we were in native villages later on.
The first day or so we would take off our shoes and socks to wade the river, but found that that meant a rest before crossing the river and one on the other side, so decided to wade in our shoes and dry them at night. Our feet were getting too tender to be wading barefooted. The rocks were covered with dry mud, which became very slippery under our wet shoes, and the slipping and sliding bruised our feet. After wading the stream we would find a piece of sand to walk in so our feet wouldn't slip on the rocks. Divoky was having trouble with his wet flying boots, so I traded shoes with him for a day and a half. Van, too, was in bad shape with his one flying boot and oxford which now had the toe gone.
We either had to ford the river or cut back in the jungle and climb over a steep ridge to get on the other side of the cliffs and back to the river. Sometimes we could pick our way over the rocky bluffs, but it was dangerous work. We tried going back through the jungle but it was rough going and we would lose the river and get leeches on us, so we tried to keep on the rocks if it was possible. We found several animal paths along the river, but they would suddenly end and we would have to cut our way back again. The elephant trails seemed to go up the sides of the mountains and then stop. Sometimes we would find cliffs on both sides of the river that couldn't be scaled and pools too deep to wade, so we had to go around.
This was wild, uninhabited country with no signs of monkeys or small game, but hundreds of big cat tracks, wild buffalo and elephant prints. The river was getting larger by the 17th and the 18th and the fish were also bigger. Every pool was full of big fish that were all between two and three feet long. We stopped and tried to catch some with flies and with grubs, but no luck, not a strike. We were thinking more and more of food and those fish were sure provoking. To stop meant a one or two hour delay and always ended with no fish. I'd like to go back some day and catch every one of them for the trouble they caused us. One day we found a bush of wild lemons, which were very sour, but tasted good to us.
On the 18th around dusk when we were just building our fire a B-25 came roaring down the canyon only a few feet above us. We had time to jump up and give one yell, then it was gone, leaving us cussing our luck and their eyesight. The sudden jump and yelling had "blacked me out" for a second and I plopped back in a sitting position. We were discouraged and sat around the fire discussing our plans if we shouldn't get help in the next day or two.
On the l9th around 1400 we were wading along the edge of the river under some trees when we heard a plane flying low in our vicinity. I was in front and waded out in the stream, trying to unwind my scarf from around my neck and wave it at the same time. As a result, I was about to choke myself, but the plane saw us and dipped a wing, then began to circle. All of us yelled and waved our arms, and they dropped a streamer from the ship that lit on the other side of the river. Divoky and I both fell in the river in our excitement, and I can say without embarrassment that there were tears in our eyes, we were so happy. When they left we built a fire and spread our chutes on the rocks. Two of us went down stream to find a better spot for them to drop us supplies, and built another fire there. The ship came back in an hour and after much circling dropped two bundles, one food and one containing two blankets and a comforter. Both bundles fell in the jungle on either side of the river. An accompanying note told us to follow the river west to the Ledo Road and that they would contact us every day with more supplies. Everything looked fine to us and we could hardly wait to open some corned beef, but afterwards found that our stomachs were not accustomed to food and we couldn't eat very much.
We finally started out again loaded down with this extra weight, but made camp after walking but a short distance. We had dinner and breakfast the next morning, used up the last of our chocolate rations making cocoa and left what food we hadn't eaten except for some coffee and sugar. The bundles had contained canned bacon, corned beef, sausages, cherry jam, grapefruit juice (one can broken), milk (broken), cheese, sugar, bread and matches. We walked all day the 20th and again saw the rescue plane which dropped several notes saying to follow the river another 30 miles to a village, and dropped shoes and coveralls for all of us but no food. We signaled them asking for food and a more definite idea as to where we were. They dropped us a map then with our position on it and a note saying they would bring the food later. That night we waited and waited but no plane, so we made some coffee and went to sleep hungry again.
On the 2lst we put in another full day of walking and again were disappointed when the plane didn't appear with some food. That night we had enough coffee grounds for about one-cup of weak coffee, but we used it over twice and made eight cups. I believe our morale was lower on this night than any other, as we had expected some good food from the boys back at our base and maybe even a can of beer and some cigarettes.
On the 22nd, all four of us were very weak and it was an effort to keep walking. We would walk 15 minutes and then rest 15. At 1100 we laid down on the rocks to rest and wait for the plane which surely must come, and all fell asleep in the sun. At noon we got up and started out again We began finding old fires and shacks along the river, which meant natives lived near, so we kept going. By 1600 we were almost too tried to walk and decided to stop at the next camping site we found. I swam the river and got a bamboo raft tied there and told the fellows I would float down the river and locate a camping place for the night. As I rounded a bend in the river, I could see the roof of a hut with smoke from a fire inside, so I yelled back to the others and just about drowned myself in the rapids getting to the right side of the river. When Divoky caught up, the two of us hurried ahead and entered the clearing. Two small native boys were working there and when they saw us started yelling, "OK Joe! OK Joe!" Then an old man came down the ladder from his small shack and offered us some fermented rice mixture from a bamboo tube. The first taste almost made me sick. Then one of the boys gave us a cigarette and that really cemented our friendship. What a welcome smoke that "limey" cigarette was. Then the old man took us to a lean-to that had strips of bamboo on the floor and motioned for us to lie down and rest. We watched them build a fire, cook some rice and boil some fish. How good it felt to have someone cooking us rice and fish and gathering wood for a fire. While we were eating we saw a big orange tiger come down to the river and drink about 100 yards from us. No wonder they live in huts built on stilts. After many motions and gestures we gathered that all of us would start down the river in the morning. That night we all slept in the lean-to.
The next morning we had some more rice, and started out. The trail went up and down mountains, never around them and half way up the mountain we would get in the fog and rain. After two hours of trying to keep up with the natives I had to grit my teeth to keep going. Then three natives came down the trail, armed with a big gun, and very happy to see us. They shook our hands and there was much jabbering and OK's. It was OK with us because they took our packs plus their own. Now the ten of us started out again and in awhile came to a Naga village on top of a hill.
We were taken to a big hut overlooking all the others and told to go up the ladder. There on a post in the middle of the room was a well-worn pin-up picture of Ingrid Bergman. We felt that the American influence had reached this village and that we were in friendly hands, so we took off our wet cloths and sat on the floor by the fire. The place was full of natives staring at us and talking to each other.
Finally the preparations began for our rice dinner and we conveyed the idea that we wanted a "cock-a-doodle-do" (chicken) and some eggs. After a while they brought us a chicken and three eggs, which we boiled. One of the last three natives seemed to be in charge of our little party plus being the chief cook, and we called him Sabu.
After eating we looked around at our surroundings. The hut was about 70 feet long by 20 feet wide and built out of bamboo on stilts about 10 feet off the ground. We were in the end room, which was 20 feet square, but with no wall on the outside end, which meant that the wind and cold air blew in all the time. Underneath us was a pigpen, and all night long the two big hogs grunted and squealed while we tried to sleep. We slept on the floor with our heads right up in the ashes of the small fire and wore all our clothes. The old native was naked except for a thin cloth over his back and around his waist and he didn't seem to be cold at all. Maybe the old boy's pipe had helped keep him warm; he certainly did enough mumbling and talking to himself. We shivered and shook all night.
The next morning we had some rice and one egg. The day before we had seen the rescue plane looking for us down in the valley but it hadn't seen our signals and had left in a short time as the weather was bad. Again we walked at a steady pace along the mountain trail until we came to a village down in the valley along the river. This was a Kachin village and the people were much more friendly. As soon as we sat down to look for leeches the women brought us bunches of bananas and some sugar wrapped in a page of Life magazine. In return we gave them half of our remaining parachute silk.
Late in the afternoon an L-5 flew over and saw our signals. He dropped a note asking us if we needed anything. We were hoping he would drop us food and cigarettes to break our rice diet, but when he didn't we signaled back that everything was OK. There was no use spending the next day waiting for them to come back. We'd waited three days for them to bring us food and felt kind of disgusted at a note asking us if we wanted anything.
It was shortly after this when Montgomery and Vansteenberg were outside that Divoky and I saw natives grind up some live bugs and put them in the rice. We didn't tell the other two until after they had eaten. The natives here were greatly interested in all our clothes and the women were amused by the photographs in our wallets and W.D. Identification cards. After dinner we were given rice wine which tasted quite good, so we drank all they gave us in hopes of a good night's sleep for a change. The women kept our fire burning most of the night and we did get some rest. The friendliness here in comparison with the Naga villages was sharply illustrated by this normal behavior of the women.
The next morning the old man whom we had first met was sick and told us he was taking his two boys and going back up the river. We could see he wanted one of our jungle knives so we gave him the one he liked best. He was very thankful and practically embraced us before we left. As we took the trail, which led through the village, all the people turned out to see us go. We caught a glimpse of the chief from the village we had been in all dressed up carrying an umbrella and his big gun.
Another day of walking; this time in the pouring rain, and we came to another Naga village on top of a hill. Along the way we had bypassed one village in a trot with some sort of a rear guard behind us. I figured they were unfriendly and kept up the pace even though I was panting like a steam engine. This fourth village had kind of a hostile feeling about it and was disappointing after the previous stop. I noticed also that our food had been carried from the Kachin village and all we were given here was a place to sleep by the fire. One native showed us some papers dated 1926, which had been written by the Commissioner of Myitkyina asking the Chief to meet him at a certain place regarding human sacrifices in the Naga Hills. Another gave the Chief permission to purchase 20 rounds of ammunition for his ceremonial gun, which he had inherited from his father, stating that it was a measure to maintain friendly relations with the villages.
Bill Masters after he walked out of the jungle ----->
The next morning we decided we would make the Ledo Road as we could hear the trucks going up the grades in low gear. The natives would break a twig to show us the approximate distance we had walked and how much was left to go. It took us two days to work out this system as we couldn't convey any mutual understanding of time. After passing through many small villages we, four bearded and bedraggled white men and six natives, were a sorry sight indeed. We flagged a truck and all climbed in. The driver gave us a cigarette and rolled his eyes as we picked about a dozen leeches off our legs. A few miles down the road we got off at an engineering company, which gave us a meal that really hit the spot. The natives got tea, oranges and bread. All the men got their cameras out and brought us cigarettes. It was certainly a warm welcome for us and I will always remember it.
Around midnight we got to Ledo and reported in at Headquarters, where we were welcomed back by Colonel Pick (now Brig. General Pick). He and his staff took over for us and finally, after 12 days, we could relax. We were given a fine meal and our natives got the same. It was all strange to them and they used their fingers even though we tried to explain what the knives and forks were. The four of us were put in the hospital for observation. I understand the natives were driven to Dooma and back, given remuneration, and rice to take them back to their villages.
We had come to know their individual personalities and to appreciate the things they had done for us. I've never seen better hospitality anywhere in the world.
We stayed in the hospital for four days and then returned to our base. We had walked about 80 miles in the twelve days.