Well, it finally happened. We were flying along about 20 or 30 minutes out of SN, about 6am. The engine gave a cough, caught fire, and the pilot ordered a bail-out. Luckily my parachute was in my radio operators seat. I notified the chief engineer, who put on his chute. Then I then went back to open up the emergency hatch, and proceeded to the front in an attempt to send a distress signal. I had been followed out by the co-pilot who urged me to jump immediately. I went back to the exit, took off my glasses, and jumped. I suddenly realized I was far enough from the burning plane, and pulled the rip-cord. As nothing happened, I looked under me and saw the chute still there. Apparently I had just pulled the handle out of its pocket, but not enough to open the chute. This time, I pulled harder realizing that I had nothing to lose, and the whole handle and wire came out in my hand. Immediately I felt a "whoosh" and sudden jolt that almost took my breath away, but as I had on a tight harness, I was safely drifting down. I attempted to turn in the direction of drift, but was unable to.
I landed on a high grass on a mountain side, sat down to smoke a cigarette, and plan "what to do next". I made a pack out of the chute, and as I had heard voices, walked that way but no luck. Back up the mountain, I ran across a path, followed it, then saw cow droppings and tracks. Followed it to a small hut where an elderly woman motioned me to continue up the path where another woman and man offered a bed by a fire. As it had rained during those past 5 or 6 hours and I was soaking wet, I stripped down to underwear to hang my clothes to dry. They offered me what they were eating, which I suppose was rice but tasted like glue, and possibly spinach, but tasted like grass, but ate it with no ill effect’s
July 26, 1944
Next morning, word had gotten out, and a group of about 9 men led me outside, where they had some sort of Alpine horns about 12 to 15 feet long. They sounded them, but nothing happened. I could hear planes flying over, but very high, and with an overcast, I could not have signaled them, even if I had had a signaling mirror. We walked down to the bottom of the mountain, was fed boiled corn on the cob, and spent the night at another hut. I could not communicate with anyone at this point, because although I had the "pointee-talkee" they could not read Chinese.
On the 3rd day, a Chinese who could apparently read came up to me. I showed him my Chinese-American Flag, and the "pointee-talkee". With that he communicated that I would have to remain here until the next day. About two hours later, a messenger arrived with a note in English, saying the guides would take me the next day to his (radio) station.
Early in the morning, I was taken to where the plane had crashed, and through hand signals told to wait. There was not much led of the plane. Practically all of the aluminum had already been stripped off. About noon, the Chinese Soldier who had sent the note arrived. He could speak a little English, about one word out of ten or twelve was understandable. But he communicated that the rest of the crew was already on the way out, and I would have to go with him to his station, even further south, so that a new shuttle system could be set up to walk me out. On arrival there, he had an American radio system with a unique power system. He would pull a rope, that rattled some cans with rocks, and other Chinese would immediately start hand turning the generator. What the messages were, I can only guess. It was at this place that I was able to bathe while my clothes were being washed. He had made a chair on bamboo poles to be carried by coolies, to help carry me so that I wouldn’t have to walk. But, being unaccustomed to such luxury, at the expense of other human beings, did not use it very much, as the going was pretty smooth. Spent the night at another typical home and meal.
At the next station, there must have been about 150 to 200 people to welcome me. Curiosity, is a better word since they had not seem an American. Had supper that night at a big table outside, with about 10 or 12 Chinese just staring from 10 feet away. Having an audience, made using chopsticks much more difficult Finally struggled it though, but then, had to meet every town o6icial who came to call, with sometimes as many as 50 in the room all jabbering away at the same time. Later I had to go visit the Provisional Magistrate. I didn’t know much about protocol, whether to salute, curtsey, or just shake his hand. He was a civilian though, I was told he was a university graduate and his wife very fluent in French, which I was not. She had an MD degree (I was told). His name was Mr. Wong (I did not catch is first name). He invited me to his house the next morning for breakfast. He took my Army serial number, and the serial number of the plane so that he could make out official travelling papers.
Went to Mr. Wong’s house for breakfast, (about 11 am.) where other dignitaries were already there. We drank a toast, (alcoholic, I’m sure) then we sat down at a square table for 8, (2 to a side). The main course was brought in and placed in the middle, very ceremoniously. We had no individual plates, except small bowls for rice. Mr. Wong placed the ends of his chop sticks at the edge of the large bowl, then everyone did likewise. He took the first morsel, then everyone was on his own, eating directly from the large bowl. I felt awfully embarrassed at my use of chopsticks, until Mrs. Wong ordered someone to bring a spoon, (Bless her heart.) The main course was "chicken something" as everything but the feathers was served. And, if you could not quite master some morsel in your mouth, it was perfectly ok to just spit it out on the floor, as one of the dogs would soon gobble it up. All in all, it was quite an experience.
Upon leaving, Mr. Wong gave me the official papers he had promised, supplied a horse, (or was it a mule?) and new guides to escort me to the next town. I thanked him profusely, for myself, and on behalf of the U. S. Government. We alternately walked and rode for the next 5 or 6 hours, during which time it rained. Finally arriving at our destination, where I was given more good food, and the best bed in the house, while my clothes were drying.
This morning, we continued our journey northward, and got there about 2 hours later. It was too far to our next destination, so had to stay there another day. They gave me a detailed map of all our stops.
After a good breakfast, gave me a bearer, two armed guards, and for lack of a better word, I’ll laughingly call a horse, though got a better looking one at the next stop. They put on two blankets and a saddle that wasn’t meant to be ridden, lengthened the stirrups and it was pretty comfortable, although I probably looked like hell, and a disgrace to the State of Texas. Had to get off quite a number of times, though, because of deep mud that the horse couldn’t make it with me. Got muddy up to my knees. Got to our destination, it was a hotel or perhaps an opium den, four beds to a room. Again was the center of attention, much of a distraction. Raised such hell, that they posted a guard at the door to keep out the curious. Took a short nap, had supper in my room, with some distinguished looking dignitary in a sloppy uniform. Couldn’t speak English. Brought out some liquor that would melt a brass monkey, drank some, but carefully. Was offered the companionship of a woman, which I declined. Soon was alone, writing this, and so to bed.
(Note to Intelligence Officer: Inspect all survival kits for signaling mirrors. Mine did not have one. Should have mentioned this earlier.)
I also neglected to mention earlier, I gave pieces of the parachute to people as they had assisted me prior to meeting the first Chinese Soldier. Also, a large piece to him to make a mosquito netting for his bunk. As I gave away the last piece, I did not think I would need anymore as I had the Chinese travelling papers, and most of the emergency kit, although I had used all the Band-Aids and iodine swabs, on cuts and bruises for peasants. Also, Mrs. Wong had given me some Halazone and Atabrine as mine were getting low. Where she got it, I’ll never know. At times when I’m alone, I have been reading this emergency survival booklet several times to keep sane, and writing this to keep my mind active. Since meeting the Soldier, have had good food, usually chicken, soup, rice, fried eggs, (the old fashioned kind, that you have to break in half). Not bad, although I wouldn’t want to do this of my own free will. I seem to remember someone saying that you got per-diem for this. Sure hope it is true.
Got an early start this AM, again 2 armed guards and a horse to ride. Stopped along the way about 1 p.m., had noodles and some wine, and given some peaches to take. I think I got a little drunk, but kept on walking anyway. Finally about 5, got to some small town, and given more noodles and a bed. Later a dignified gent, speaking reasonably good English, thought I had been hurt because I had not been with the rest of the crew. Had a good conversation, he would translate my words to all within hearing distance. Showed him my emergency kit and supplies left over. He had heart of sulfa, but not of benzedrine.
Next morning, met more VIP’s, got a doz. bananas, 4 peaches, and some cigarettes. L eft at 1 p.m., with a horse that had a wound on a leg. When I got on, it started bucking, but stayed on in true Western fashion, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Then agreed with the horse, that I should get off and walk as his wound started bleeding. Walked about 6 hours to next town, met the magistrate of the place, and gave me a place to stay, and some food, consisting of rice (again) chicken, a little beef (I think) and what looked like ham. He showed me pictures of crews he had helped. Put my name on the list, along with names of the rest of the crew.
This morning, after a good meal, they gave me a good horse and as we led a sentry gave me a rifle salute, so I returned his salute. Got two uniformed soldiers as guides. About an hour and a half later, a runner caught up with us, with an even better horse and an honest to goodness saddle. So, I practically rode all the way to our next destination. After about 8 or so hours, got there to a meal of noodles. Opened up my pack & found that someone had taken a few things from my jungle kit. Mainly a piece of the nylon strands from the parachute that I had been saving as a souvenir for myself, a pair of gloves, and some doo dads. Probably during the night. Also, someone had opened up my Parker Pen, didn’t know what it was, and jammed on the cap so tight, I had a hell of a time getting it off Partly because the cap had been dented by the strap on the chute, on bail-out. Some people brought some hard candy & sugared dates, that they did not know what they were. Would not try them, even after I ate some.
Next morning, had chow, given another fairly good horse, rode most of the way, except about an hour or so. Found out this place is "Truguy". Some were curious about the pistol ., and fired two shots. A guy showed me a German pistol and wanted to trade. I said "Nix".
It just occurred to me that these animals we have been riding are not horses, but mules. Not having been raised on a ranch, what do I know about animals? These things don’t look like horses, much less mules, but with a heavy load they will drag their able-sugar-sugar, and me from Texas can’t tell the difference". This day, got two mules and for guides got two little kids. Took 8 hours for a trip that should have taken about 5. Now I know what they mean by "stubborn as a mule". And to top it all off, the kids were yodeling all the way, in a high pitched falsetto that sounded like something between a love-sick mocking bird calling its long lost love, and pregnant cow in labor pains. Finally got here tho, & a guy showed me a Colt 38, and I dittoed. We fired both.
More rice for breakfast, and a good start at 9:30 and another mule with no bridle. Had a hell of a time guiding the damn thing. S topped at some small village to feed the mule, and the guide disappeared for about 1 1/2 hours. Started again, then rain. Took shelter in a religious shrine. Sighted Nan- Yen about 4 p.m., but did not arrive until about 6 as we had to cross a river. I had to strip down to shorts. On arrival, some guy in uniform greeted me, later another one in a blue uniform showed up and said in broken English, that tomorrow we would get to a town, where we would be able to ride in an auto into Yunanyi, (China) as they have roads there. I hope that when I get back to my squadron, they haven’t turned in my things into the supply section. I would hate to lose the B-4 bag. Now that everyone is gone, I can write some more. Feeling very tired today, as the mule had a habit of brushing his head against his shoulder to shoo away flies, and this at a trot, that it would break his stride. And, on a saddle that was meant for cargo, not humans, you can imagine what it did to my crotch. Everyone all along the trip seems to be "Ding-How" crazy. Everywhere, they’ll throw up their thumbs and say, "Ding-How."
August 9th (this guy says it is the 10th)
Guy took me for a walk around the small village for no apparent reason. Baby had a bad sore on his foot, so I put on some sulfa and a bandage. Everyone very grateful, and gave me a package of cigarettes, a hat, another mule, and two guides. It was drizzling at first, but later it really opened up and got soaking wet. Finally rain stopped, but drizzle continued, enough to be annoying and to keep me wet. The road was good, except for two washed out places, and a small landslide. Walked practically all the way because I could make better time. Got to the Chinese Garrison and greeted by the CO, (I think). By "Pointee-Talkee" asked him if he had a phone. Said "yes". I asked him to phone American Headquarters and tell them I was here. We walked about a mile to another building, rang the phone and talked to about 4 people, and said he could not get through. Said tomorrow at Mitu, they could speak English. Brought out a plate of what must have been a half dozen scrambled eggs and fried potatoes, sliced thin and crisp along with the traditional rice. I picked up the chop-sticks, but the guy said "to hell with the chop-sticks" or words to that effect, and motioned them away and called for a spoon. I couldn’t have cleaned up the plate more, if I had licked it clean. Gave me a bed with a blanket and mosquito netting. To bed at 9.
This morning with a mule and guides, alternately rode and walked for about 5 hours, to a Chinese Garrison, I suppose. With Mitu in sight in the distance, I saw a sign reading: "U.S. Army Headquarters" and an arrow pointing to the right. In spite of the guides insistence, I walked to the Army Headquarters. The NCO in charge, was more nervous than I was when he found out I had been walking out of China after bailing out. He phoned ATC Operations in Yunanyi, told them I was there and would arrive on the next truck Got a ride on an Army Truck, arriving Yunanyi about 2 1/2 hours later, reported to the Sgt. Major and was taken to the base hospital. Got a good hot shower, good American food, and a decent bed. I heard news about the Atomic Bomb, Russia in the War, and the Japs almost ready to quit. All this, plus President Truman’s speech was just a little bit too much. A doctor had to give me a couple of sleeping pills.
Spent the day at Yunanyi, and finally got a ride back to the good of "15th Com Car". Later found out that all that day, messages had been going out to all of our planes reporting positions to Yunanyi, that I was safe.
I am now back in American Hands, so this is