100-Year-Old Pilot Returns to Myanmar With War Stories and a Sense of Humor | The Irrawaddy Magazine

Indeed, Moon’s finest hour was when he flew his C-53 plane, a converted cargo version of a DC-3, over the Hump, the nickname for a huge mountain range of the eastern Himalayas, with Doolittle as passenger. The Hump was a crucial route for the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) and the Allied Forces to bring war supplies and equipment into China during the war, but the route was often dangerous, with Japanese fighter planes, high mountain peaks and unpredictably bad weather.

After the surprise air raid on Tokyo, Doolittle crash-landed in China but was in need of a rescue. He was saved by the Chinese and put on the CNAC plane that Moon captained, for a trip from Chongqing to Kunming and over the Hump, with a last stop in India’s Calcutta.

On the morning of the flight, the US Embassy informed Doolittle that Myitkyina in northern Burma would fall to the Japanese by 12 pm. When Moon reached northern Burma that afternoon, he was preparing to let down on the runway of the Kachin State capital when Doolittle passed him a note in the cockpit to warn him that the Japanese had taken the town. But as Moon approached he saw another C-47 plane taking off on the runway, on its way to India, so he ignored the general’s warning and landed.

Many refugees were walking off the airfield, thinking they had just missed the final plane, when Moon and his crew came roaring in. They stampeded toward him, and when the plane door opened they scrambled inside. As soon as the door closed, Moon put his engines into full throttle and took off.

Doolittle turned to him with grave doubt and reportedly asked, “Do you know how many people you are carrying?” There were only 28 converted seats on board. Moon answered with confidence, “Don’t worry, refugees don’t weigh very much!” The plane barely lifted into the sky as they reached the end of the runway, but Moon managed to land safely in Calcutta, where immigration officials counted 70 passengers getting off­, more than twice the carrying capacity. When the luggage compartment opened, eight more refugees fell out of it.

via 100-Year-Old Pilot Returns to Myanmar With War Stories and a Sense of Humor | The Irrawaddy Magazine.

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