Pilot Opens Window in Flight and Fires on Another Plane With Machine Gun

 November 9, 2023

One of the most perilous journeys during World War II was flying over the Himalayas. This route from India to China necessitated flying over a treacherous region known as "The Hump."

Terrifying Trip

Flying over the Himalayas was one of the most dangerous missions that pilots had to undertake. The Himalayan mountain range stretches for thousands of miles across South Asia and is known for its treacherous weather conditions, high altitude, and rough terrain.

The route from India to China, which was vital for the Allies in the war effort, required pilots to fly over the highest peaks of the Himalayas, including the notorious mountain pass called "The Hump." The Hump, which is located in the eastern section of the Himalayas, was a particularly dangerous part of the route. Pilots had to navigate through narrow valleys and steep mountain ranges, and the weather conditions were often harsh, with high winds, low visibility, and severe turbulence.

To make matters worse, the planes used for these flights, such as the Curtiss C-46 Commando and the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, were not designed for high-altitude flights. The planes often struggled to maintain altitude and were at risk of stalling or crashing. As a result, many planes and crew members were lost during these perilous flights.

Despite the dangers, flying over the Himalayas was crucial to the war effort, as it provided a vital supply line to support the Chinese forces fighting against Japan. The pilots who flew these missions were known as the "Hump Airmen," and they played a critical role in the Allies' ultimate victory in the war.

Many Perils

The Hump was a 500-mile stretch of the eastern Himalayan mountain range, where the peaks can reach up to 25,000 feet high. The region was notorious for its unpredictable weather patterns, including sudden storms, high winds, and low clouds, which often created whiteout conditions.

The high altitude of the Hump made it particularly dangerous for pilots and their planes. The air density is much lower at high altitudes, which makes it difficult for planes to generate lift and maintain their altitude. The engines of the planes used for these missions were also not designed to function in such thin air, which further increased the risk of engine failure.

Navigating through the narrow valleys and steep mountain ranges of the Hump was also a major challenge for pilots. The rugged terrain made it difficult to find safe landing spots in the event of an emergency, and the unpredictable weather made it hard to maintain a steady course. In some cases, pilots would encounter wind shears, sudden changes in wind speed and direction, which could cause a plane to lose control.

Another significant danger was the threat of Japanese fighter planes. The Japanese were aware of the importance of the Hump route and often sent fighter planes to intercept the Allied supply planes. The fighter planes were particularly effective at high altitude, where they had an advantage over the Allied planes, which were not equipped with weapons capable of firing at such altitudes.

Colonel William Gayda's Distinguished Flying Cross

Colonel William D. "Bill" Gayda was a World War II pilot who flew numerous missions over the Hump. One of his most famous stories occurred on a supply mission over the Himalayas in 1944.

During this mission, Gayda was flying a C-46 transport plane when his plane was attacked by several Japanese fighter planes. With no defensive armament on his plane, Gayda improvised and opened the window of his cockpit. He then drew his .45-caliber pistol and began firing at the attacking planes.

Realizing that his pistol was not effective against the enemy fighters, Gayda retrieved a .30-caliber machine gun from the cargo hold of his plane. He then mounted the machine gun on a makeshift stand and continued to fire at the enemy planes.

Gayda's actions proved to be effective, and he was able to shoot down one of the Japanese fighters before the others broke off their attack. He then safely landed his damaged plane and returned to base.

Gayda's actions earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, and his story became a popular legend of the war. His resourcefulness and determination in the face of danger serve as a testament to the bravery and ingenuity of the pilots who flew over the Hump.

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21 comments on “Pilot Opens Window in Flight and Fires on Another Plane With Machine Gun”

  1. bar rifle compact , easy to use ? b.a.r rifle 30 cal. full auto 42''' long 22 lbs 20 round mag add 18 oz would not be easy at all in small space, as a cocpit of aircraft! but i could be wrong .jimbo

    1. You have a good point! We will look into this an ensure the story is accurate. Thank you for your comment!

  2. WOW! That is an amazing story. I love it when the History Channel has documentaries with actual pilots or soldiers and they tell all their stories!!

  3. My dad was with the Air Force in China from 1942-45. Supplies were delivered not only to Chinese Forces but our forces fighting in China

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  13. My dad flew over the hump regularly in a C-47 during the war. The pilot would fly just high enough above the jungle to spot the designated clearing in the jungle. When he spotted it, he'd side slip to lose altitude then level off just above the tree tops so the supplies could be pushed out of the plane's side cargo door as the plane flew over the clearing. It was my dad's job to push those supplies out over the clearings. He told me that there was a hand grab above the cargo door to hold onto when he was doing that. He said that they flew so low over the trees that he could see monkeys jumping from tree to tree. After the drops, my dad would go forward to stand in the cockpit between the pilots.
    He told me that they had already made their drop and were on their way back to base, when a Japanese fighter pulled alongside of their C-47. My dad said that they were so close to each other that the pilots were looking at each other. All he had with him was his 45 auto, so he went to the cargo door, pulled it and fired several rounds at the Japanese fighter. He said that caused its pilot to peel away from the C-47 he was in. The Japanese pilot circled around to get into position to shoot down the C-47, but while he was in the process of doing it, he was pounced on by a pair of American fighters who shot it down.
    He also told me that they'd sometimes pick up Chinese soldiers and take them to Burma or back to China. He said on one such flight a Chinese soldier came down with dysentery while over the hump. The Chinese officer pointed at that soldier and gave two of his soldiers an order. They picked the sick soldier up and threw him out of the door.
    On another occasion my dad saw a Chinese soldier who was driving a truck, run into the tail of a parked American aircraft. A Chinese officer who saw it, pulled that man from behind the steering wheel, took him behind a Quonset hut and shot him in the head.

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