During World War II one of the most dangerous trips was flying over the Himalayas. The flight from India to China included flying over “The Hump.”
The trip was considered dangerous for all aircraft types; fighters, bombers, and transport planes were all in danger as they flew over the region. Over 600 planes crashed in the Himalayas throughout World War II, and the military lost over a thousand airmen.
The army never reached an accurate number. There were so many planes that went down. The military tried to find the lost planes, but the searches were deemed “spasmodic” or “negative.”
Another treacherous aspect was the Japanese fighters. Pilots were terrified to go down in the region. A transport pilot even put a machine gun out his cockpit window so he could shoot down an enemy plane.
General George C. Marshall was The Hump’s biggest critic. He believed that it robbed the military of much-needed planes and kept the war going for a year longer than it should have.
Not Just Enemy Fighters
Enemy fighters were the least of pilots’ worries. The air was just not friendly for planes, and the trip was long. Even experienced pilots had a hard time flying through the passage.
Enemy planes just added an additional level of danger. Capt. Wally A. Gayda was flying a C-46 Commando transport plane going from India to China. His mission was to drop supplies off with Chinese Nationalists who were fighting against the Japanese.
The flight was already dangerous. However, the weather conditions made it even scarier.
The Curtiss C-46 was a giant plane, and an extra windy flight was the last thing it needed. The plane was unarmed and a large target for enemy aircraft,
Looking out the window, Gayda saw a Japanese Nakajima Ki43 Oscar flying along side of them. Thinking quickly, he grabbed his Browning Automatic Rifle and stuck it out the window of the cockpit.
Most pilots carried a BAR with them. It was light and compact, easily used by a single person, making it ideal for a pilot.
Gayda fired a shot, killing the pilot of the Ki43. The enemy plane went down. Gayda’s shot went down in history as the first in-air kill for the C-46.