Monday, February 27, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 23

While Catherine was settling into her life with a two year old and newborn, Roy was adjusting to life in India. Beginning in 1942, India served as the base for all Army Air Forces operations against the enemy in Burma, providing aid to China. Following the ship’s arrival in Bombay on August 7, 1944, Roy was stationed at Camp Worli, a British Royal Air Force transit camp located just north of Bombay, for two to three weeks. The buildings were made of brick with no glass in the windows or doors in the door frames.  After the confines of the ship, the camp seemed like a motel to Roy. He had a whole bed to himself, even though it was made of wood and roping. The soldiers received mosquito nets and sundry clothing.

Indian train 1944
Following his stay at Camp Worli, Roy boarded a train across India to Camshupora, located just outside of Calcutta. This train ride would probably have taken about three days. From there they took another train to the Brahmaputra River. On this leg of the journey, Merrill’s Marauders were on the train with them and Roy was able to meet some of the men.

One of the things that amazed Roy about the trains was that the track was laid by different groups of people, so they weren’t built to the same gauge. Apparently the Army Transport Command had purchased the railroads from several small railroad companies, who had used different track gauges when they originally built the tracks. The track would simply end and they would have to change trains. Because of this, a trip that could have been accomplished in one day ended up taking several. However, Roy said the scenery was beautiful on the trip.

Once they arrived at the Brahmaputra River they took a riverboat to Jorhat, India.  The western flank of the Brahmaputra River is big-game country with tigers, wild elephants, and herds of rhinoceros. Jorhat had one of the largest airstrips in northeastern Assam. It was at Jorhat that Roy was trained to become a loading supervisor, and he learned how to convert B-24s to C-109s. Loading operations were under the supervision of qualified enlisted air transportation technicians. Roy’s Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) was Air Transportation Technician.

Following six weeks of training, Roy flew to Chabua, India, which is located in the district of Dibrugarh in the state of Assam. Chabua is in the northeastern part of India. During WWII, the Chabua Airfield was constructed in the Assam Valley outside the small town of Chabua. The Himalayas rise to a height of 10,000 feet around the area. Planes taking off essentially had to fly circles around the immediate area in order to get the height needed to clear the mountains. The flight over and through the Himalayas was known as “flying the Hump.”

Chabua ATC
Roy served in the 1333rd Army Air Forces Base Unit, Army Transport Command. Air Transport Command (ATC) was established in 1942 as a unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Previously named the Air Ferrying Command, its mission was to meet the urgent demand for the speedy reinforcement of the U.S. military bases worldwide during WWII, using an air supply system to supplement surface transportation. ATC also operated a worldwide transportation system for military personnel.

actresses on base
One of diversions on the Chabua base was the Bamboo Music Hall. Roy had always enjoyed music and entertainment, so he likely passed quite a bit of his free time here. Stars of many USO shows appeared in this hall, such as Joe E. Brown, Noël Coward, and Paulette Goddard. From late October through early December 1944, Pat O’Brien, Jinx Falkenburg, Harry Brown, Betty Yeaton, Jimmie Dodd, and Ruth Carrell Dodd performed more than a hundred shows in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater.  Dixie Walker and his troupe, made up of major league baseball players, also entertained. What a thrill that must have been for the men on the base to be able to have a taste of home in India!

Bernie Downey, Bill Penney, Roy

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