TALES FROM INDIA


 
The most interesting thing that happened on my tour of duty in France,  was the time I spent in India while the Indians were having a war with the Chinese over a border dispute in Tibet. I do not know why the Untied States gets into everyone’s business but they always have and are still at it at the time of these writings. In this case we (The US) had sided with India in this dispute  and our outfit was sent to India to provide the airlift of Indians and equipment up to Tibet to conduct the war. India only had a few American made Fairchild C-119 transports to provide their airlift needs, which was too few in the first place but those planes were not suited for the high altitude involved and could only get up to Lae (where the destination airstrip was located in a valley up in the Himalayas at an altitude of 11,000 feet) by maneuvering up through the valleys, which was a sporty course and basically ineffective. Thus, our Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the 322nd Air Division, located at Evreux, France, were sent there to do the job for them. I came to learn while I was in France that if any country, except Russia or China, let a “Fart” over there in Europe, we (The US) would send a C-130. And, seemingly still do. 

 
I flew a plane to India on two occasions, as the wing maintenance officer, during nearly a year we were supporting this operation and spent a month or so there each time.  Flying from France to India, particularly from Turkey through Iran and Pakistan was over great gobs of nothingness but still very interesting. Our base of operations was in New Delhi, India and we were put up in a very nice hotel there but if you had jumped out the window you would have landed among a bunch of people living in absolute squalor. They definitely have a two class system there, i.e. no middle class that I could see --- it was a have or have not society, seemingly to me anyhow. 


 
The flight up to Lae took about two hours as I recall. To get there, the way we did it, was to go up to about 30,000 feet to clear the Himalayas. On a clear day we could look over to the north  and see Mt. Everest (not many people get to do that). Then we would get the valley, where the strip was located, sighted either visually or by radar, and we would start the let down to the landing strip . If you could not see that the valley was clear of clouds at 20,000 feet we would have to abort the mission. In other words we had to have a ceiling of 20,000 feet to get in there (that is a very high, low approach altitude, for the non aviation minded reader).


 
Landing at 11,000 feet was different than any other landings I had/have ever made.  The usual approach speed of around 130 knots indicated airspeed in the C-130 equates to about 150 Knots true airspeed at 11,000 feet. Thus, the landing was much faster than usual and in that rarified air the ground effect, which is defined as commencing at a distance of one half the length of the plane’s wing span above the ground, was greatly reduced and the plane come right on in for a thump down as opposed to flaring and floating a little before touchdown as in normal landings. You could have come in faster and gotten a smother touch down but that would not be good for the tires  and you would never have gotten the plane stopped on that PSP  (Pierced Steel Planking) 6,000 ft runway because it was difficult to get the plane stopped at the 130 knot indicated approach  speed, even with the props in full reverse (which you applied immediately after touch down). The first landing I made there I forgot about the decrease in ground effect and tried to make a normal flare and that old girl paid off like a rock. It definitely was one of the worst landings, if not the worst one, I ever made.            

 
On one occasion our Air Division Commander, Col. Chuck Howe, as mentioned much earlier in the stories about my days with him in the Southwest Pacific in WW ll came to India to see how his troops were making out. The Indians wanted to impress him so while he was up at the airstrip at Lae they arranged for him to have lunch at some location ON UP in the mountains from the strip. I happened to be in India at the time and for some reason I was invited along. --- The point of the story was that up in those mountains (at that altitude) there was  actually a beautiful, kind of an American looking, old fashioned house with  Poplar trees and green grass. The Indians had a big spread laid out on things like big picnic tables. beautifully set up for him. With that most unexpected house as a back drop, and with the cool  wind blowing in the trees and the green grass, they had created a setting, in that normally forbidden looking place, that put me in mind of the old Ronald Coleman movie called Shangri La. It really made an impression on me.

 
                              Load ‘em up and move ‘em out

I was the maintenance officer but I still flew some of the missions. One day I was up at Lae and the Chinese were over running some of the Indian positions up at the front. Apparently the Indians were afraid that an orphanage, up there in those mountains somewhere, was going to be over run by the Chinese and they had brought a large number of raggedly dressed orphans down to the airstrip at Lae for the purpose of taking them on back to New Delhi. At this particular time it was cold, with patchy snow on the ground, and some of those little tikes did not even have shoes on. My job was to fly them out. I did not even bother to count them. There was no manifest and I could see there was not going to be enough seat belts. So I just told them to load them on regardless of how many there were. And that is the way I took them back to New Delhi. One big load of children in the back of a       C-130, but they were out of harms way.

 


 

 
  THE BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA

 
I had heard of the Black Hole of Calcutta my whole life but I never imagined that I would actually get to go there someday, but it happened one night on my tour in India. --- We were through with the days work and I was in the hotel dining room having dinner with a number of our troops.  Some one came in and said there was one of our planes broken down in Calcutta and they needed a part flown in to them to make the needed repairs and they needed a volunteer crew to fly the part over there ( probably 300 miles away). As I was prone to do, I volunteered to take the flight. They rounded up some other volunteers to complete the crew and with little or no flight planning we took off for Calcutta about 9:00 PM. I always relied heavily on the navigator to keep me out of trouble so it did not bother me that we were on our way without really having done much flight planning; either navigational or weather wise.

 
Well, we did not have any trouble with the navigation but the weather was very bad, which no one had mentioned to us before leaving. And in all honesty, with communications not being all too good in that part of the world, it may have been that no one at our base knew how bad the weather was. In any event it was bad. There were thunderstorms all over the place; one being right over Calcutta when we arrived. This little surprise meant getting out the let down plates for an airport I never figured on landing at in my life time and REALLY studying it, as fast as I could, while the thunderstorm bounced us all, over the sky. I made the instrument approach all right but as I was making it I was kind of saying to myself the old military adage, “ Don’t ever volunteer”, for there I  had been all settled in my hotel after a hard days work and having dinner and now two hours later I am fighting a thunder storm, in the middle of the night, making an instrument approach into, of all the strange places in the world, Calcutta, India.
The approach worked out fine. We delivered the part, had a “Cheese Burger” of some sort at some kind of a “Snack Bar” there, waited for the thunder storms to clear out, and returned to New Delhi without further happenings. But I have and always will be able to say, “Yes I was in Calcutta once “ and although I did not get to see “The Black Hole “ per se, the thunderstorm was black enough for me.

 
The Taj Mahal

 
Another time they again asked for a volunteer to fly a load of our troops down to Agra, India for a day off (morale type thing) tour of the Taj Mahal. I volunteered to take the flight.  Agra was about two flight hours away from New Delhi so it was a quick trip down there. I told everyone to do as they liked but to be back at 4 pm, which is what they did. So they had a full day off and a rare chance to visit the Taj Mahal.   The Taj Mahal was a beautiful sight to see and I found myself thinking how strange to be at such a historic sight after looking at pictures of it all of my life.

 

There was one thing of note and that was to go inside the Taj you had to take your shoes off. They had some little straw slippers you  could wear but there were none left by the time I arrived so I just decided to go barefoot, which seemed OK at the time. In later years, however, I thought maybe it had not been such a good idea when I considered that I might have picked up leprosy or some form of foreign crud, what with all of the people from all over the world that go through there with their shoes off.

There is a river that runs directly behind the Taj, it maybe the Ganges, but in any event, while standing out on big verandah on the back of the building over looking the river, I saw a number of dead bodies floating down it. That was impressive.  There is not much else to this story but to once again mention how many places this little boy from Oklahoma got to see in his lifetime.


 
Hindi

 
While out on the flight line one day, there at our base in New Delhi, out from a pile of boxes, came a number of little puppies that were in pretty bad shape and apparently no longer had a mother. There was one little black and white female that appeared more lively and in fact prettier than the others. I had to catch it rather than it coming to me because the dogs in India are not far removed from wild dogs and those puppies were not as friendly and cuddly as American puppies. In any event I took the little thing back to my quarters, which at the time were in a little separate building from the hotel so I did not have to take the little guy up and down the halls of a hotel for him to do his business.  I must have kept her for nearly a month there in my room and we got along pretty well but she was never the cuddly little puppy I would have expected.  I named her Hindi . 

 
At the end of this month we came to the end of our support mission for the Indians and were to return to France. As the maintenance officer I was assigned to clean up after our stay there and was to be the last plane out, going back to France.   This worked out well because I made sure that all of our support equipment got loaded on the planes that were first out and this left me and my crew with practically an empty plane to ferry back. So, we did as much shopping as we could in the last few days we had there and headed back to France like Marco Polo (many of the spoils of that journey are still in use in my house today). Also aboard was Hindi. 

 
In Athens I had to sneak her through customs under my flight jacket. I was told that customs had heard what I did and was looking for US but they apparently never found us.  My return home was a joyful occasion to Carole who had been alone again for a couple of months with the kids (and thus got her husband back and some support in raising the family). All of the goodies I brought home helped me get off of the hook a little and of course the kids went wild over Hindi the puppy; an puppy that grew into  a dog during the remainder of our stay in France. And a strange dog she was. She loved us but never with much of an outward show of affection as with most dogs. Sometimes she would sit out in front of a house across the street and just look at us and would not come to us no matter how much we called her. Other times she would come to the door and want to come in. Then when we would let her in she would vomit a big load, right inside the door. In later years we saw a show on TV about the wild dogs of India and we realized why Hindi had such a strange personality. WE also found that the vomiting bit was her method to  bring home food for her off spring, which in our case, WE were the offspring, and really did not appreciate her providing for us so well.

 
We eventually took her back to the States with us when we came home from France. The kids and I came home on the SS America (Carole had to fly home a week or so ahead of me completing my tour, to attend her father’s funeral).  The kids and I were quartered down in the hold of the ship while Hindi was quartered in a kennel up on the top floor of the ship. I had to go up to the first class section of the ship to visit my dog. 

 
To finish the Hindi story--- We had her for a few months after we got back and she continued to be a strange dog, but we loved her. One Friday evening, about supper time, she showed up with a large fish in her mouth and proudly presented it to us. We always figured that some Catholic family around there was looking for who or what ever had taken their Friday night fish off of their back porch.

 
Hindi eventually got killed after being hit by a car. I have always thought the Hindi story was a good example of that age old argument about heredity and environment. In the Hindi case, heredity won out because we never really got the wild dog characteristics out of her, no matter how much love and care we gave her. QED 

Bob

Robert L. Mosley

  

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