Three Years and Three Days: a Memoir of World War 2 – Excerpt

Three Years and Three Days: a Memoir of World War 2 – Excerpt

By Theodore L. Hendrick


The first fatal crash of one of “my” C-46’s was 2 August, 1943, a passenger plane, only one died.  This was C-46 #2420 and it was fixed up specifically for passengers and supposedly our safest and most dependable plane.  All Hump passengers had parachutes and all bailed our successfully except the co-pilot, Lt. Charles Felix, and he died in the crash.  There were twenty-one persons aboard including Eric Serareid (war correspondent) and John Davies of the State Dept.  A search team reached the survivors in fourteen days and it took them ten days to walk the 140 miles out to the Assam Valley.  It was probably the most successful rescue operations during the three years of hump flying…


In the spring of 1944 the Japs finally invaded India.  Their goal was to isolate the Assam airbases and stop the airlift of supplies, via the hump, to China.  The battle continued a couple of months in Manipur state around Kohima and Imphal.  We took that threat very seriously and carried our rifles and gas-masks at all times.  Many of our airplanes were diverted back down the valley and were used to air-drop ammunition and supplies to the encircled British and Indian troops.  Eventually the Japs, what left of the, were driven back over the mountains into central Burma. 

With the latest Jap threat gone, another four months on monsoon rains were upon us.  Rain poured down, day after day, our shoes were green with mold and our clothes would rot away long before they were worn out.  In spite of the weather, our planes kept going twenty-four hours a day.  I don’t know how the pilots stood it.  The pilots would go on instruments, and four or five hours later they would drop down out of the clouds at Kunming.  Many new pilots would fly half dozen trips without ever seeing the mountains.  The unpredictable winds would often put one plane in another’s airspace and midair collisions with everybody lost were not uncommon…

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