THE HUMP AND CHINA NATIONAL AVIATION CORPORATION
In 1940, during the Second World War, Japan’s Imperial Army held China’s seaports and eastern plains in a death grip. A lifeline from Allied supply bases in India, across the forbidding Himalayan mountain range in western China, was crucial.
After Japan cut the Burma Road, CNAC pioneered an air route over the Himalayans and became the sole supplier to China’s combat forces along with Clair Chennault’s American Volunteer Group-The Flying Tigers.
After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt realized that the pathway to China must be kept open and supplied CNAC with planes commandeered from U.S. domestic airlines.
On the fifth of May, 1942, Japan’s elite Red Dragon Armored Division approached the last barrier to China’s back door-the mile deep Salween River gorge. If the Japanese crossed the river, China would be out of the war.
Flying Tiger P-40s and the Chinese ground forces destroyed the bridge. The Japanese hauled pontoons to the river’s edge while trucks and tanks snaked for miles along the Salween’s bank. Chennault’s Tigers fought them off. The remnants of Japan’s elite army turned back. Never before had an invading army been defeated solely by air power. It was a defining moment for the Flying Tigers, CNAC and for aviation history.
The treacherous Himalayas took their toll. At war’s end CNAC had lost 38 planes and 88 airmen along with over 600 ATC planes and their crews, flying the world’s most unforgiving terrain.
Historian William Leary In his book, THE DRAGON’S WINGS wrote,
“CNAC became the yardstick of efficiency for the massive undertaking by the Air Transport Command.”
Albert Wedemeyer, Commanding General, American Forces in China, said “Flying the Hump was the foremost and by far the most dangerous, difficult and historic achievement of the entire war.”
by CNAC Capt. Felix Smith