This story is about: Jorgen Jorgensen
1st lieutenant, 33rd squadron, 513 group
It takes place: 1945
in China



Divine Intervention, Part One

Part 1:

Shanghai, China,1945. Our mission was to fly a C-46 loaded with close to 10 tons of fifty-gallon drums containing high test aviation gasoline to Kunming China, a 1300 mile plus trip. Because we had to add fuel to our plane at a field that our navigator had directions for, our air miles would increase beyond 1300 miles.

We all entered the plane, my copilot, my navigator, and my radio operator as well as myself. We put on our parachutes, as well as having gone through all the pre-flight procedures. It was a slightly cloudy day, but good for a normal take off. I got the go ahead from the tower to move to “take off” position. After a final OK to take off, both my copilot and myself held the brakes in a locked position while I increased power to the engines to full. Upon the engines reaching max. rpm., we released the brakes, and my plane started down the runway. I adjusted all the trim tabs and the copilot set the flaps to “take off” position. As the speed of the plane increased, I raised the tail by trim tabs, to elevate the tail to a horizontal level. Upon reaching 130 mph., I eased back on the control column to start the 500 feet per minute climb to an assigned altitude given by the navigator. He gave me the compass setting for our first stop where we would add more fuel.

The radio signal from all Army fields in China was a 50 mile radius; beyond 50 miles from the field was “silence”- no radio contact.

The next sign of our ”fuel stop field” is a radio signal which would activate my radio compass, and, indicate “0” if we were on course. A radio compass reading of other than “0” would dictate the angle needed to return to a ”O” heading. I was relived of the thought of burning by losing an engine on take off, our engines were running smoothly as per the steady roar. We were out of radio range and were entering a massive dark fog cloud mass. It looked like instrument flying from then on.

An instrument landing is only allowed if there is at least a 300 feet clear elevation. I must wait first for a radio signal to have my radio compass show me the direction to the radio tower. When I reach and pass the tower, the radio compass will rotate 180 degrees. I then have started to leave the tower. I radio the control tower, they give the amount of time in seconds that I must take leaving the tower, maintaining the 180 degree heading. At the end of the time, I must turn 180 degrees and complete the turn in the time span that the tower had given. These time intervals are so important since they make sure we clear all obstacles such as another plane or building. I then fly for another time interval at a compass heading given from the tower. This compass setting is a direction that parallels the runway where we will land. I must hold this compass heading at 1500 feet altitude to begin my descent for landing. At the end of this last time interval, the tower tells me to repeat the exact 180 degree left turn in the exact time interval that I took to do the first 180 degree turn. The only way possible to make a safe landing is by using the times and directions from the tower. There will be not enough time to make a direction change at 300 feet up in the air and traveling at 130 mph. Any deviation from these instructions means a death sentence unless a pilot pulls up and repeats the above ritual.

We reached our field ready to go through the above procedure when the tower returns our call. We are told we cannot land. The field is closed, so we either go on to Kunming or return to Shanghai. I have a fast conversation with my navigator, and he looks at all his calculations. He tells me we can make Kunming. The need for the cargo is urgent, so we decide to go on to Kunming. The navigator gives me the compass setting. We are still in the fog that is like a dark blanket ready to gag us. We still have a long wait until we receive a radio signal from Kunming airport, a time to think about our own private concerns, since it is too noisy for any conversation. I set the auto pilot on and it maintains our course and elevation.

My concern is the instrument landing because my training in America was listening to a steady radio hum signal, and if I wandered off, I would hear a dot dot dot telling me to turn back to the hum. If I wandered in an opposite direction I would hear a da da da telling me to turn back to the steady hum. There was always a radio tower to tune into along with maps showing compass settings and all tower identifications. Every airport we landed at had runway lights, adding another aid to verify elevation and direction for a good landing. Even night flying was easy with all the information available.

C-46 transport plane