757 flights across the "Hump"

by © Dirk Septer 2005

Where a tour of duty flying “the Hump” across the Himalayas officially comprised of only 80 missions, two Prince Rupert-born brothers Al and Ced Mah made 420 and 337 round trips across this infamous route, respectively.

Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, American chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek, once said, “Flying the Hump was the foremost and by far the most dangerous, difficult and historic achievement of the entire war.” (* 1) After a trip to Burma, Hollywood actor Pat O’Brien noted, “There is only one thing tougher than the Hump; and that is the men who fly it.”

After Japan had seized Manchuria in 1931 and parts of northern China in 1937, the ruling Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek had retreated. By October 1938, all of the eastern provinces were under Japanese control. A number of puppet governments were established in Bejing and Nanjing, leaving only two routes open: Haiphong to Kunming and the Burma Road.

The latter had been China’s major supply link with the outside world. The widening of this 681-mile (1,100 km) mountain road from Rangoon to Kunming had only been completed in 1938. The switchbacks and horseshoe bends snaked through plains, terraces and rice paddies to crest a spur of the Himalayas with 10,000-feet (3,000 m) high passes. It wound through Mandalay, Lashio to cross the Salween River and China’s border. East of Bao Shan (Precious Mountain) it crested the Mekong River to Lake Dali and on to Kunming, the Hump and road terminal in Yunnan Province.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, seizing Hong Kong at Christmas and capturing Singapore on February 15, 1942. The Japanese advance continued and on March 10 Rangoon fell. Soon Japan not only occupied Burma but also the entire China coast, allowing only an aerial lifeline to supply Chiang Kai-shek’s beleaguered Nationalist armies.

After the Burma Road was seized in the spring of 1942, Chiang Kai-shek pleaded with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Send us 50 DC-3s and Japan can have the Burma Road. Send no other.” Less than two months after Pearl Harbour, Roosevelt reacted. “FDR said, ‘by all means we must keep China in the fight; no matter the pain; whatever the cost.”

In February 1942, a few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, President Roosevelt issued an appeal for airmen and requisitioned 25 DC-3s. However, on June 10, 1942, only ten of these aircraft headed for the Burma Road; the others had been diverted. After the Burma Road fell into enemy hands, Pan American Airways’ subsidiary China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) was charged with the mission of flying supplies over the now infamous "aerial Burma road" across the "Hump" into occupied China. This company, which employed many disbanded Flying Tiger P-40 pilots, had been awarded the U.S. Army contract to fly supplies for the American Military Commission in China.

The commanding general in New Delhi did not like the idea of a competing airline to fly the same route as the military. Moreover, the U.S. Air Force Transport Command considered the Hump route too dangerous and unflyable. In November 1940, CNAC had sent a Douglas DC-2 from Kunming to Myitkyna, Burma and on to Dinjan, Assam Province in India. This was the route of the old Burma Road and the future Ledo Road. The survey considered the jungle route flyable in good weather.

Before the start of World War II, the U.S. State Department had called CNAC the "chosen instrument" to combat the increasing challenge of Nazi Germany’s Lufthansa making great inroads all over the world. In 1932, Pan American Airways bought China Airlines from the Aviation Exploration Company owned by C.M. Keys, after this Canadian investment banker had gone broke during the Depression. “CNAC was one of the wonders of the war in China,” Vincent Sheean noted in his book Between the Thunder and the Sun. “Flying over Japanese lines and in Japanese controlled air, performing miracles of maintenance, coming down on airdromes which would have seemed impossible for a DC-3 at home and doing the whole thing with almost no losses.” (*2)

Early in 1942, after airstrips had been cleared and other infrastructure put into place, the CNAC flights commenced with Douglas C-53s (DC-3s with super-chargers). High blowers, or super-chargers, would allow these aircraft to top Mount Everest (29,035 feet). Later in 1945, Curtiss C-46 Commando transport aircraft joined this operation.

“Everybody thought the Douglas DC-4s flew the high, or the true Hump. However, the C-54s, a long-range cargo version DC-4, were first pressed into Atlantic overseas service in the spring of 1944. Their initial run was to span the Atlantic route from New York via Newfoundland, Azores to Casablanca, Morocco,” Mah explains. “Later, the C-54s were employed over the lower hump. They flew from Calcutta on the Gangetic Plains, at sea level to the southwest region of China to the 7,000-foot Yunnan plateau.” (*3)

Albert 'Al' Mah was born in Prince Rupert, B.C. in 1920 While at King Edward Highschool he was a champion boxer who taught at the Provincial Recreation Centre. After attending the California Flyers Aviation College in Los Angeles, Al became a civilian pilot with No. 2 AOS (Air Observers School) Edmonton. Here he trained Canadian pilots for war service. In 1942, Al transferred to the new No. 8 AOS Quebec City. For a short period he also flew for Quebec Airways.

In late 1942 Pan American Airways called upon him to join CNAC. “Al was one of the early birds; a pathfinder,” Ced observes. “He was one of the pioneers that blazed this air route over the Trans-Himalayas and the Top of the World.” By flying for Pan Am-owned CNAC, he became a "flying tiger." The term "Fei Hou", or Flying Tiger comes from ancient Chinese history. A fighting man, a person who resists is called a Tiger. (* 4)

Wartime pilots in China were thus dubbed Flying Tigers. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, whose legendary American Volunteer Group (AVG) of American pilots helped stem the Japanese in China before the United States entered the war, later proudly adopted this name. When the AVG disbanded on July 2, 1942, only five pilots stayed with Chennault; 17 others joined CNAC.

In 1941 at age 17, following his one-year-older brother Albert’s example, Cedric “Ced” Mah enrolled at the California Flyers Aviation College and later took an advanced instrument-rating course in Fort Worth, Texas. By 1942, Mah held both private and commercial licenses. With an instrument rating and already having logged about 300 flying hours, Ced Mah’s dream was to become a bush pilot. However, World War II changed his plans for the time being. Instead he got his first flying job with No. 5 AOS (Air Observers School) at Winnipeg, Man., as staff pilot and instructor instead. As instructors were desperately needed, Mah joined the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

The famous Canadian World War I flyer and bushpilot Wilfred “Wop” May, OBE, DFC, would have a large influence on Mah’s early flying career. On leave in the fall of 1943, Mah went to see Capt. May, who he had met the previous year in Edmonton. He told Mah, “Go to fly in China. That country is crying for aviators. After Europe, the Pacific theatre is next.”

Although he did not have much experience flying at high altitude, his instrument rating enabled Mah to go cross-country and do night flying. While instructing at No. 2 AOS at Edmonton, he had taken every opportunity to build up his flying hours and gain experience in blind flying.

When Ced got a job offer from CNAC, May offered to intercede with the Canadian government on Mah’s behalf. With May’s support, in March 1944 Mah gained his release from the Labour Exit Board for service on the infamous “Hump” operation flying over the Himalayas. In April 1944, after training at New York, the 22-year old Mah left for Dinjan, in India’s Assam Province to join his brother Capt. Albert Mah who was already there serving with CNAC. Mah’s initial apprenticeship to fly over the Hump was with his brother and lasted only one month.

"Imagine, in the black of the night blasting off with a heavily loaded transport and staggering into a void. No sooner airborne when you begin a climb and circle to 6,000 feet (1,800 m). There are mountains to all sides of you rearing to 18,000 feet (5,400 m)." Turning east the aircraft climbs to maintain 19,000 feet (5,700 m). "You see nothing, not a single light, just a myriad of stars." It would not be until some three-and-a-half hours later that the aircraft would arrive at its destination. (*5)

Fellow pilot Dick Rossi vividly recalls many nights, while flying over the Hump, that Al would put his mic into his saxophone and entertain those of us flying at the same time. (*6) "Al would be busy in the radio operator’s seat back of the cockpit, tooting his saxophone or twiddling the dials trying to reach his girlfriend in Vancouver," his brother notes. "He maintained contact through a ham operator who would phone his girlfriend. Ever so often he would sneak forward to check altitude and course." (*7)

The pilots, nicknamed by the media at the time as the “humpty dumpties,” hauled ammunition, gasoline, gunpowder, TNT and millions worth of dollars in Chinese currency printed in the United States. On the return trip out of China they would carry cargo like quick silver, tin, lead, zinc, wolframite and hog bristles.

Five complete crews were required per day to keep each of the aircraft flying. "This work was a special call. Our crews would fly around the clock," Mah recalls. “We’d be fatigued and so on but because of our youth we were able to do it. To go without sleep, to wear an oxygen mask all the time, and sleep under mosquito nets.” And in order to carry a heavier load, the Captain on the Transport Wing’s DC-3s also acted as navigator. This allowed the aircraft to carry an extra 200 pounds of cargo.

“It was also hard on the human beings. They were killed, or they quit, wore out or just broke down,” Mah continues. “Release from one’s tour of duty in Burma was almost impossible, unless you were shot down, wounded or could get someone to relieve you.”

Logistics of making a successful run required serious strategy and aircrews with nerves of steel. The “Hump” route soon became known as the “graveyard of the air.” It was extremely dangerous flying in the high mountains, battling variable weather conditions, cumulus nimbus clouds, jetstreams and Japanese fighter aircraft. At flight altitude, pilots often ran into 100-200 mph-winds.

Sudden strong gusts could rip off wings or flip big aircraft on their backs. There were also accounts of downdrafts so violent that they could cause an aircraft to drop up to 3,000 feet (900 m) or more in a single plunge. On one crossing, Mah’s load of lead ingots was bouncing up and down “like corks on an ocean,” tearing holes in the roof of the aircraft and embedding some ingots into the floor.

And if you did survive a crash in the jungle, there always still were headhunters or enemy soldiers to finish off the job! Headhunters were a constant source of danger. Though the U.S. government offered the natives highly prized bags of salt for every downed airman they brought back alive to his base, “we never did know when the natives had enough salt, or how many airmen they slaughtered.”

The route was plagued by generally horrible weather. Turbulence, very strong winds and severe icing could cause some miserable and dangerous flying conditions. “And beneath all this, you got mountains, jungle, rivers, crags and rocks,” Mah observes. “It was the most remote spot of all China and southwest Asia.”

In summer, pilots would encounter hot Indian monsoon winds, which lifted moisture over the mountains creating turbulence, thunderstorms, heavy rain, hail, zero-visibility and icing conditions. At flight altitude, they would often run into 100-mph plus winds. Hurricane-like winds blowing snow from the 29,035-foot summit causes Mount Everest’s famous “plume.”

In winter, weather conditions for flying were much better in India and Burma. However, in China there would be freezing rain and harsh winter conditions. Early spring would bring thunderstorms and the start of another cycle of bad weather. Weather changes from minute to minute and mile to mile were the Hump’s most threatening challenge.

Though the Trans-Himalayas run east west, on the China end, between China and Burma, a spur (the Hump) runs north south. “In order to get from India or Burma into China,” Mah explains, “you had to cross over this range. And because it backs up all the monsoon winds that come in from the southwest, you get tremendous rains and cumulonimbus (thunderhead) buildups.”

Crews flying the Trans-Himalayas had to traverse the steep canyons cut by Asia’s four mighty rivers, the Irriwaddy, Salween, Mekong and Yangtze. The Burma Hump is an offshoot of the east-west Trans-Himalayas and on China’s western border they run north and south.

“From June to October, pilots would encounter the clouds and the rain of the tropical monsoon season. They would switch from VFR (visual flight rules) flying to straight instrument flying. En route, the sky and track would be hidden. Cumulus nimbus clouds that could soar up to 50,000 ft. (15,000 m) where their anvils would flatten. Severe updrafts and downdrafts would bar their progress while heavy downpours with icing would nullify their passage. We lost more aircraft due to navigation and weather conditions than to enemy action.”

“The Jade Dragon Range reaches about 20,000 feet (6,000 m), the Great Snowy Mountains up to 25,000 feet (7,500 m), to give you a feel of the route,” Mah says. “The C-47s and also the C-46s equipped with high blowers would carry us up to 35,000 feet (10,500 m) on westbound headings using updraft thermals inside thunderheads.”

Not surprisingly, the attrition rate amongst aircrews flying the route was extremely high. Mah remembers one night, fortunately for him one of his nights off, when 35 aircraft out of 300 flying that night were lost. “There shouldn’t have been a plane in the air that night,” Mah observes.

“Towards the end of the war, we maintained a fleet of 22 aircraft. But our attrition rate was so high that we lost 66 aircraft during the war,” Mah continues. “In other words, that fleet was replaced three times over. In the January 1945 storm alone, CNAC lost three planes and the army lost another 32.” (* 8)

And if the Japanese fighters or the weather did not get you, the C-46 would. The older Commandos were equipped with the early R-2800 engines, which had weak nose sections and Curtiss electric props. Those nose sections would fail without warning and the case and propeller would come off. If it were the left one that failed, the propeller would come into the fuselage. The props went often into flat pitch for no reason. Unless you could get to the ground immediately when the engine caught fire, with no stainless steel firewall behind the engine and no fire extinguishing systems, the main front spar would melt. The dampness and monsoon rains aggravated the dangerous situation.

Commercial post-war C-46s were modified through the installation of a stainless steel firewall and R-2800-CB16 engines with a heavy-duty nose. Also installed were hydraulic Hamilton Standard propellers and fire detection and extinguishing systems. These changes made the Curtiss Commando into a pretty good aircraft. (* 9)

The flying was not only dangerous but could also be very adventurous. In February 1945, for example, Mah was tasked with the job of purchasing 10,000 Tibetan horses for the planned October 1945 landing at Haiphong, in former French Indochina.

After flying to a Tibetan plateau, halfway up a 20,000-foot mountain, Ced picked up Tibetan chieftain So-Long Busong, who would act as guide and interpreter. A “queer character” on a shaggy pony met him. “The man was wearing Tibetan boots of a felt substance, a furry cap with a red tassel, and smelt like a Billy goat.”

Mah had to fly into a secret Tibet airstrip deep within a narrow dead-end gorge. It was not marked on any map and no one had been there for 10 years. Flying the big transport, Mah would have only one chance to safely land. Taking his chance winging his way through the narrow gap, he saw the smooth, safe landing strip. “Even so, it was 12,000 feet above sea level, and tricky enough. The airstrip was a streambed with boulders. It was within the shadow of 24,093-ft. (7,228 m) Gonggashan (Minyakonka), China’s highest mountain,” he recalls.

“I was wearing long winter underwear, two shirts, a sweater, my flying suit and parka, and a U.S. feather jacket. It wasn’t too warm either,” Mah remarks. Forced to fly at high altitude because of peaks they quickly ran short of oxygen. The chieftain and two veterinarians from Texas were forced to lie on the floor of the aircraft for over an hour before the aircraft could descend to land at lower altitude. Mah and his co-pilot shared the remaining oxygen between them. And when that ran out, Mah continued to fly for about 20 minutes, breathing only the thin air in the cockpit.

The horses purchased in Tibet during February-March 1945 were driven over the 16,000-foot (4,800 m) high passes to Xichang. However, their use on the planned invasion of Haiphong on the French Indo China coast never materialized. When two atomic bombs intervened, the horses were declared surplus at the end of the war.

On another trip, on August 8, 1945, Mah was ordered to carry 20 passengers to Zhongquing (Chungking). His order read, “You’re to stay with them and take them anywhere they want to go.” When they boarded his plane, he was surprised to see they were all wearing Japanese military uniforms. Mah just assumed they were captured prisoners. (* 10)

It was not until decades later that he learned that his passengers had been a military delegation that included Prince Haulik, Kai Hirohito, younger brother of the Japanese emperor. Tokyo had dispatched them to Nanjing to negotiate surrender terms with China, a day after the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Later in August came Ced Mah’s most famous adventure, which involved the tossing overboard of six kegs of newly- minted Chinese currency, weighing approximately 1,500 pounds each. The money, the equivalent of $4.3 million U.S., had been minted in the United States for the Nationalist government. It was slated for the Bank of China in Chongjing to replace worthless Japanese currency should V-J Day arrive.

On August 23, 1945, when he was transporting the money, his Curtiss C-46 Commando ran into trouble. Ice started to build up on the wings and then a hydraulic line sprung a leak. It caused part of the undercarriage to drop and creating a drag. And finally, one of his two engines quit.

Mah’s first reaction was to order the crew to bail out. But then I suddenly remembered we were over Lolo country,” he recalls. “The Lolos, were a hill people numbering about 7 million who dwelled in the Chinese Tibetan borderlands. These people were notoriously hostile and treated all captives as slaves. “Even if the crew had escaped capture, the chances of walking safely out of the jungle and mountains and disease-infested territory were almost nil,” Mah explains.

During the interval when the aircraft plummeted from 22,000 feet to 12,000 feet Mah quickly fought his way to the cargo hold. Only choice was to cut loose and to jettison 48 of the 52 bundles of money. Four bundles were held back should they be successful in effecting a crash landing. Or if luck held and they survived, to buy their way to freedom, or use the currency to start a fire and keep warm.

Now at 10,000 feet, Mah turned the fuel back on and tried to restart the dead engine. The engine popped, backfired and miraculously started. The dropped money was never found. “Kind of spendthrift, don’t you think?” Mah wrote to his brother. “We traded $866 million Chinese for a $300,000 aircraft and our lives; a fair price,” Mah figured. “The U.S. Army investigated me thoroughly!” (* 11)

Three weeks earlier he had participated in a 22-flight operation, that hauled $100 million in gold bullion from Calcutta to Chungking. The money was a United States loan to China. Mah made three of the 22 DC-3 trips, personally packing, about $15 million worth of bullion in his aircraft.

The flying was not only dangerous but could also be very adventurous. Al Mah’s most daring exploit, however, he performed while on leave. In February 1944, he hiked into occupied China and brought out his 12-year old sister Bernice, who had been caught there by war, and sent her home to Canada. “I had to conceal myself in a coffin to get by a sentry post and I nearly suffocated,” he recalled.

Together they circumvented Japanese positions under cover of darkness and rested by day in bordellos. Along the way, the boat in which they were travelling was strafed by Japanese Zeroes. Finally reaching safety, Bernice went on to India and Al returned to flying.

Early 1945, at the height of World War II, the Eurasia Airline Corporation, with Lufthansa as the parent company, changed its name to become Central Air Transport Corporation (CATC). This second of China’s major airlines was seized after Pearl Harbour when Germany declared war on the United States.

In October, Mah was flying over Kaifeng, airdropping supplies along the Yellow River. While still shuttling cargo back and forth across the Hump, Mah was dispatched north to the border with Siberia later that month. In November, Next month, Ced helped transferring government ministries from Zhongqing (Chunking) to Nanjing.

With the coming of peace, Mah was ordered to transport government ministries from inland war-torn Chongjing to the pre-war capital of Nanking. The U.S. Air Force airlifted the Nationalists out of Burma. They were desperately struggling to hold the cities and maintain their lines of communications.

In November 1945, the Hump operation ceased. The U.S. Air Transport Command ordered the demolition of their wartime base installations, hangars and runways and the Burma Hump to be abandoned as supply route.

Even though Japan formally surrendered on September 3, 1945, this did not mean peace for China. The communists and the Nationalists began a civil war and the hostilities continued. Uneasy allies against the Japanese, the communists and Nationalists now turned on each other. The communists, the first proletarian Chinese government since the old dynasty promoted land reform and gained ground and popularity amongst the Chinese people. The Nationalists, backed by U.S. interests, were arrogant, inept and corrupt were now considered the bad guys.

The communists focussed their operations to Manchuria’s three northeast provinces, while the Nationalists tried to hold on to the cities and guard the rail links. It was feared that the Soviet Russians would fill the political vacuum left by retreating Japanese from Manchuria. In late September, the United States landed some 60,000 U.S. Marines at Tianjin to deter this advance south of the Great Wall.

Eight months after Japan’s surrendered, Ced Mah gave notice to CNAC. After taking a short vacation home on leave in April 1946, he returned to Asia to join CATC. Al Mah later also returned to CATC. For the next three years, the Mahs flew for CATC supplying the nationalist troops till China finally fell to the communists.

CATC pilots were making continuous airdrops on the nationalist positions. “We engaged in all campaigns, airdropping supplies into Manchuria when Communists cut off rail and road routes.” Dodging enemy fire was almost a daily routine.

On one occasion, Mah landed at an airstrip in Tanuan just as enemy shells moved to within range. He left one engine running while ground crews unloaded the aircraft. Mah dived for a dugout to escape the shrapnel. When ready for take-off, he raced from the dugout and jumped in. He started the aircraft down the runway for a take-off while cutting in the second engine.

Another time he was to land at Lanchow, which had not been under fire a few hours earlier when Mah left Chunking. The strip was being shelled. It was just too hazardous to set down with his load of silver dollars. “It was most embarrassing, because I didn’t have enough fuel to get to an alternate field,” he recalls.

Remembering some flat country within range, Mah decided to head out there to attempt a belly-landing. But darkness overtook him. He about-turned and aimed for a town 10 minutes away, planning to bail out there. “As we arrived over the town, I saw a small plane with its landing lights on, dropping, Mah continues. “I didn’t know whether to believe my eyes or not. But I followed the plane down. And sure enough, there was an airstrip! As it was still under construction, it had not been marked on any maps.

As he touched down and raced along the runway, it was lined with pushcarts, oxcarts and camels; the equipment used for its construction. Mah was told he was in Sining, capital of a Chinese province. He had actually landed on territory that until recently had been used as a parade ground for Moslem generals to train Mongolian cavalrymen loyal to the Chinese Nationalist government.

In the meantime, the civil war in China had heated up. The communist armies switched from their hit-and-run guerrilla tactics to fixed position battle. On November 6, 1948, they launched their final offensive. No sooner was the wheat gathered when on North China Plains arose the sound of cannon fire. The outcome would determine the fate of China. Where the communists were battle-tested and well organized, the Nationalist armies had never been tested and were disheveled.

The battle of Huai Hai would climax into the biggest battle on earth. Over a million men were committed to do battle, with each side fielding about 500,000 troops. The blue of the Nationalist armies supported by tanks and artillery dug in, entrenched behind fortified and fixed positions. The communists in green or wheat straw-coloured garments came streaming over the hill in a ragtag formation.

The Mah brothers continued flying through the closing days of Nationalist China doing airdrops and re-supply flights. On January 9, 1949, the brothers piloted two of the last three planes providing airdrops over the Battle of Huai-Hai. The end came on the morning of January 10, 1949. Before dawn, there was an aluminum overcast overhead, composed of transports, bombers and fighters.

The Mahs were part of over 400 transports flying to the Yellow River. “Our radio calls yielded no response,” Al Mah recalls. “In the dark, we wheeled and orbited overhead. Finally ground control came on the air, ‘Return Nanjing! return Nanjing!’ The 400-plane armada was recalled. The decisive battle of the civil war had been fought and was over. The Nationalists had surrendered. The way to the Yangtze and the south was wide open. Bejing fell later in January.

Ced Mah flew the last flights out of Nanjing before it fell to the communists in April and out of Shanghai before it fell on May 25. Al left Shanghai on May 14 and Ced flew the last plane out on May 25.
On instructions to fly Garrison Commander General Tange En Bo to safety, Mah stood by there for a couple of days. But the general decided to go to Formosa (Taiwan) by boat instead.

On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed. Recognizing the People’s Republic as the lawful government, the British government impounded all Nationalist aircraft that had gathered at Hong Kong. The flying days in China were over for the Mah brothers. “All we have is bad memories. The hardship was unspeakable. The only redeeming factor was that we made it.”

Between the fall of 1944 and the spring of 1946, Ced Mah accumulated some 6,000 flying hours. “We flew every day that we possibly could and gained a lot of experience. Well, that’s what we went over there for. We figured if we survived it, we’d have experience and memories.” After returning to Canada, the Mahs both continued their flying careers. Early in 2005, Canada’s largest national newspaper The Globe and Mail selected Ced Mah in the top British Columbians of all time. (*12) Al Mah’s adventures often attracted the attention of writers. As recently as at the CNAC reunion in San Francisco in October 2004, he recounted some of his experiences for a National Geographic writer preparing a book about flying the Hump. Not long after, he passed way in Montreal May 6, 2005.

CNAC pilots such as the Mahs never received any awards. Official recognition did not come for the members of the American Volunteer Group until 1991 and for the CNAC pilots until 1995. These trailblazers were given America’s highest air awards and were finally recognized as veterans.

It took many years, but finally in 1997 the United States government belatedly acknowledged the Mah brothers for their service in China during World War II. Al, who arrived in Burma 18 months before his younger brother, was the first to receive the Honorable Discharge, and the U.S. Air Medal and the highest American air award, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Al was also awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal and he held the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon. Earlier, the Chinese government had awarded them the Hump Victory Medal.

As earlier with his brother Albert, at age 75, “they finally decided to fire me,” says a bemused Ced Mah. Upon their official discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Al and Ced Mah were now entitled to wear the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. Earlier, the Chinese government had awarded them the Hump Victory Medal.

*1 American Heritage: World War II Chronicles. 1996. Forbes Inc. p. 47.
*2 Sheean, Vincent. 1943. Between Thunder and Sun. p. 367. Random House, New York. 428 p.
*3 Ced Mah, pers. comm. March 11, 2004.
*4 Ibid.
*5 Ibid.
*6 Dick Rossi, pers. comm. May 26, 2005.
*7 Ced Mah, pers. comm. June 27, 2003
*8 Ibid.
*9 Al Williams, pers. comm. August 20, 2000.
* 10 Ced Mah, pers. comm. March 11, 2004.
* 11) The Sudbury Daily Star, May 13, 1946 and The Daily News, October 22, 1980.
*12) The Globe and Mail, April 2, 2005.

The C-46 Curtis Commando

And these links for more info on those brave people crossing the Himalayas:

Official Home Page for the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC)