|Within weeks of marrying my mother,
my father left for China. He worked for Chrysler and was posted to the
Truck Maintenance Program Overseas in Kunming. The Program was connected
to the servicing of thousands of vehicles employed in transporting strategic
materials connected with the war effort. First a journalist, his duties
also included inventory of arriving materials. The Burma Road had just
been closed and now supplies arrived by air.
||The Air Transport Command was
given the task of supplying the US and Chinese armies with materiel, returning
wounded and sick troops and carrying war-important personnel. Thousands
of Curtiss C46 Commandos like the one shown above flew the nearly 11,000
miles from New York to Kunming, China - a route that passed through Newfoundland
and the Azores, Casablanca to Cairo, on to Calcutta and into Karachi where
the final leg of the trip passed above the Himalayan Mountains. The "Hump"
as it was known, claimed many an aircraft with minimum altitudes of 17,000
feet and incessant bad weather. Armed with an oxygen mask and a prayer,
thousands of passengers made the journey along with tons upon tons of vehicles
|Shown above is the Assam switchback
portion of the Burma Road. My father attempted to document as much of the
route as his time permitted. Although he was issued a uniform and given
a minor rank, his civilian status allowed him much freedom. He spent nearly
2 years in Kunming with prior postings in Cairo, Calcutta and Karachi.
During that time he took nearly a thousand Kodachrome slides that have
withstood a remarkable test of time. All the color photos displayed here
are from that era. They have not been retouched digitally except to remove
some dust. He spoke to me often of the "Hump". He told me how he rode around
in a jeep on the rims, while on rural roads he saw countless ox-carts and
rickshaws with brand new tires. Whenever planes went down in the Hump,
scavengers were quick to salvage the cargo, which found a ready market.
The Japanese were still threatening in the East and slowly the internal
Communist forces were gaining ground.
||The Hump, hazardous as it was,
took four hours while the Burma Road took two weeks. Most of the planes
were C-46's which carried supplies, parts, ammunition and military mail.
The C-54's were used primarily on the trans-oceanic portions of the route.
|My dad kept everything from his
posting in China: hotel bills, maps, diaries, coins and currency - even
his laundry bills! And my mother religiously kept all his letters, which
today help form a very complete record of that experience.
||Now, some 50 years later, it is
my dream to journey to China in the near future and retrace his steps.
Armed with his maps and notebooks I would like to reproduce his photographs
from the same viewpoints.
Kodachrome will be the film of
course, and although I will be using my newer camera systems, I also intend
to shoot some film with his trusty old Argus C-3, the same one he used
to take these photos over 50 years ago, and the first camera he gave to
|I will probably find many things
have changed but I also suspect that some views will be almost the same.
I do know that this project will honor my father's memory and will also
pay tribute to one of Kodak's greatest film products. There were numerous
theaters of World War II that people are only dimly aware of. Air Transport
Command's role in Operation Hump is one of those stories, overshadowed
by the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and subsequent end of the war.