FIRE BALL EXPRESS
TO INDIA AND BACK IN 10 DAYS

PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHS BY THOMAS McAVOY



























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FIRE BALL EXPRESS

 The June 5, 1944 issue of LIFE magazine featured a pictorial entitled TO INDIA AND BACK IN 10 DAYS.  It chronicled the 26,000 mile trip of the FIRE BALL EXPRESS, a U.S. Army Air Corps transport flying urgently needed supplies on the established route from Miami, Florida to Chabua, India.

 Below are the 30 original photographs used in the pictorial, all taken by LIFE photographer Thomas McAvoy (left). and now part of the LIFE Photo Collection at Google Arts & Culture. Captions are from the pictorial.














 Fire Ball Express
Fire Ball Express






 Fire Ball Express
Photographer Thomas McAvoy chats with co-pilot above South America.






 Fire Ball Express
Early on morning of May 5, Photographer McAvoy took a last look at U.S. soil as the Fire Ball circled Miami
and soared southeastward on the first lap of its passage to India.






 Fire Ball Express
Some five and a half hours later the big ship landed at Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico.
During brief halt here lunch was served to McAvoy and crews, weather reports were studied, fuel tanks refilled.






 Fire Ball Express
At Atkinson Field, Georgetown, British Guiana, crew which flew Fire Ball
on trip from Miami dropped off and a relief crew came aboard.






 Fire Ball Express
In the small hours of May 6 the Fire Ball eased onto the airfield at Belem, Brazil, erstwhile center
of a 19th Century rubber industry boom. The breakfast stopover here lasted 68 minutes.






 Fire Ball Express
At Natal, last stop in South America, flight schedule was delayed 12 hours
while mechanics repaired propeller governors which had caused trouble during day.






 Fire Ball Express
At Accra on African Gold Coast propeller trouble again delayed the Fire Ball for several hours.
McAvoy made use of pause to shower, sleep. Flight was resumed early on morning of May 8.






 Fire Ball Express
Tall black natives with gas cans on heads met Fire Ball at Maiduguri
after six-hour flight across mountains, jungle, dry Nigerian plains.






 Fire Ball Express
At Khartoum, the Nile-girdled metropolis of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the plane halted for six hours
while mechanics checked motors, tinkered with magnetos and still-troublesome propellers.






 Fire Ball Express
As blistering equatorial sun rose May 9, Fire Ball landed at Aden, in southern Arabia
and McAvoy shot this picture of a native carrying a meteorological balloon.






 Fire Ball Express
At Masirah Island in Arabian Sea, Fire Ball was fueled from underground tank.
Heat is so intense ordinary gasoline trucks burst. This day it was 116 in the shade.






 Fire Ball Express
Three-hour flight brought Fire Ball to Karachi, the third seaport of India and terminus of Pan American's Cannonball India run.
City is sometimes shrouded by sand storms from the deserts.






 Fire Ball Express
At dawn May 10 Fire Ball reached Agra in central India, where McAvoy could, during halt, photograph natives going to work in fields.






 Fire Ball Express
Short hop over irrigated farms of the upper Ganges took plane to Gaya, rich with relics and
recollections of Buddha. As a rule ATC planes stop either at Agra or Gaya, but not at both.






 Fire Ball Express
End of the line was Chabua, at foot of vast Himalaya uplift.
Here trucks backed up to the Fire Ball, unloaded its precious cargo for Chennault's fliers in China.






 Fire Ball Express
Chief pilot at Ascension gets permission for McAvoy to take pictures.
Sign indicates ATC ships double as patrol planes, watch constantly for subs, ships, survivors.






 Fire Ball Express
The Taj Mahal, beautiful as a cloud in the rays of the rising sun, floats beneath the plane at Agra.






 Fire Ball Express
The sun rises over the Red Sea, out of Arabia to the east.






 Fire Ball Express
The Moon sets over the Red Sea. McAvoy took this picture through a starboard window of the plane
a moment after he had photographed the sunrise from the port side (above).






 Fire Ball Express
The ancient city of Aden lies dreaming as it has for centuries at the mouth of the Red Sea.






 Fire Ball Express
The confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile is unmistakable landmark which guides ATC planes to Khartoum, Sudan.






 Fire Ball Express
Elephant tracks dent marshy shores of Lake Chad.






 Fire Ball Express
"Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide, wide sea!"






 Fire Ball Express
Remote, mist-mantled, austere, Ascension island rears its serrated ridges of reddish rock from the lonely South Atlantic.






 Fire Ball Express
Rugged bathing facilities make sparing use of precious fresh water.






 Fire Ball Express
The island's one and only tree is a weather-beaten palm which rattles wind-swept fronds above the Army barracks.






 Fire Ball Express
Tents and barracks house Ascension's soldiers. At bottom of picture is an outdoor screen for movies.






 Fire Ball Express
The "Fire Ball" lands on Ascension after its long hop over the ocean.










FIRE BALL EXPRESS
TO INDIA AND BACK IN 10 DAYS

PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHS BY THOMAS McAVOY



VIEW PHOTOS NOT USED IN THE PICTORIAL

LIFE PICTORIAL: TO INDIA AND BACK IN 10 DAYS

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REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN THEATER OF WORLD WAR II



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Compilation 2017 Carl W. Weidenburner
Portions Copyright Time, Inc.

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