Additional background information from Matt Campanella
As you may have noticed, the "jungle story" covered some of the human aspects of "the Hump" operation,
but because of wartime security and censoring, no specific operational and geographical information is contained in it.
Lt. Cecil Williams, left, and Cpl. Matt Campanella, after having arrived at a field hospital,
wearing the clothes they wore throughout their ordeal.
To begin with, I was a flight radio operator with the 13th Ferrying Squadron
based at Sookerating Air Base (a U.S. airfield carved out of the tea plantations
of the Dum Duma tea company) in north east Assam, India, just about where the
Himalaya Mountains begin and where China, India and Burma come together
geographically. I had left the continental U.S. from Morrison Field, West Palm
Beach, Florida in July 1942 as part of a 5 man aircrew (pilot, copilot,
navigator, radio operator, crew chief) taking a C-47 transport airplane to
India. Our route took us across the Caribbean to South America, to Natale,
Brazil. From Natal we flew the south Atlantic via Ascension Island to Accra,
Gold Coast in Central Africa, across Central Africa to the Middle East and
eventually Karachi, India (now Pakistan), arriving Karachi some time in August
1942. Since the bases in Assam were not yet quite ready, I was held up there in
Karachi in a British base outside of Karachi called "New Malir." I finally
arrived at Sookerating sometime in October 1942.
The 13th Ferrying Squadron was part of the 1st Ferrying Group which consisted of
the 13th, 6th and 3rd Ferrying Squadrons, located at Sookerating, MohanBeri and
Chabua, respectively (and all near each other in Assam). The Hump aircrews
consisted of a pilot, copilot and radio operator. Our mission was to fly-in
supplies into China such as gasoline, ammunition, airplane engines, parts, jeeps
and whatever else in support of the 14th Air Force ("Flying Tigers") and Chinese Army,
who were isolated from the rest of the world. While we flew in supplies into
China, our return trips were also used at times to bring out Chinese soldiers
for training in India for future combat against Japan. On the day that I bailed
out, we were on a return trip from Yunnan-yi, China with a full load of Chinese
soldiers. Because of the altitudes required to fly over the Hump and the C-47's
limited lifting capabilities, parachutes for the soldiers were not usually included.
During the flight, the airplane ran into a very severe storm in which it was
completely engulfed with fog plus heavy icing conditions. Such a situation for a
pilot can be truly terribly confusing and frightening. Especially when all you
can see out of your cockpit window is nothing, and your plane is bouncing around
and rapidly losing altitude over an uncertain mountainous terrain. For whatever
reason may have flashed through his mind, the pilot gave the order for the
copilot and myself to bail out while he would remain with the airplane and its
cargo of Chinese soldiers who had no parachutes. And as you may well know, in
the Army when an order is given, it is given and you obey. Especially in
As mentioned in the jungle story, we got the name of the native village from an
old document that Salong Lot (one of the more intelligent natives) happen to
have and showed us. I later found out that there is a Tarang River that
flows in the Himalayas in the area that we were lost in and my guess is that
Tarang is the name of the river that we were following and on which the village
On the day following our being rescued and our arrival at the field hospital,
the nurses attending to us insisted on taking pictures of Lt. Williams and myself
with the clothes we were wearing in the jungle just for the record.
Lt. Williams and Cpl. Campanella with the nurses that cared for them at the field hospital.
When I returned to the squadron from the hospital, my squadron mates were exceedingly happy to see
me back, especially since Williams and I were the first U.S. airmen to have walked out of the Hump alive.
They told me how the squadron had carried out many search missions for us, looking for evidence of our parachutes on
tree tops somewhere in the jungles. When they found none, they eventually gave up,
speculating that maybe our 'chutes had not opened and we had perished. It had
been a practice in the squadron to maintain a memoriam list on the squadron
bulletin board of all the men that had been lost to the Hump. It was entitled
"IN MEMORIAM: To All The Men Gone West", where "West" meant home. Lt. Williams'
and my name had already been added to the list. It was very sobering reading it.
I was rotated back from CBI to the continental U.S. in February 1944 and came
back in a very similar manner as to when I went over. I came back as a Tech/Sgt.
radio operator on a C-46 airplane being returned to the U.S. for overhauling. We
followed pretty much the same route back in reverse as when I had gone over to
CBI, across the Middle East, Central Africa, the South Atlantic, South America
and the Caribbean to Hempstead Field in Florida. Also, before leaving CBI, I
(along with many others) was honored by being awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross, the Air Medal and the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for my
service in CBI.