On 21 March 1945 an aircraft crewed by Major RASMSSEN as pilot; Colonel
RANCK as co-pilot, M/Sgt COLDREN as flight engineer and Sgt. LEAM as radio
operator flew into Kunming, China picking up two OSS men and then flying
on to Mengtze, China.
The following day the crew flew into a small dirt airstrip in French Indo
China. The base being the home of the French Foreign Legion’s Air Force
- two Spads (of World War II vintage) and a Jenny.
As we were taxing off the dirt strip Major RASMUSSEN informed M/Sgt. COLDREN
that there were Thompson Sub-machine guns in the storage cabinet and instructed
that we were to take them, go out onto the wings, and shoot anyone who
even came close to our aircraft. I can remember saying “what do you
mean by that.” I had flown with the Major on several occasions thus it
did not bother me to question. We knew, of course, that he could
be very stern at times. He replied “I am not shutting down the engines
and no one is going to capture this aircraft. If anyone even looks like
they want to get close do not hesitate to shoot them.” COLDREN’S and my
answer was “yes sir.” He took the left wing and I took the right.
We both went out beyond the engines and sat on the leading edge with guns
and plenty of ammo ready.
The Major then proceeded to taxi forward towards a small hanger. He instructed
the OSS men that he wanted them out in front on his side of the aircraft
that he could see them at all times. He informed them that he had
advised us, should any attempt be made to take the aircraft, he had given
us orders to shoot and he was going to take off.
The meeting with the French was very short. The Navy personnel we were to pick up were not there thus upsetting the OSS to no end. There was a lot of hand waving and yelling going on which we could not hear do to the fact that our engines were going. The OSS men re-boarded and we taxied back to the short strip. Major RASMUSSEN lined the aircraft up, called us back in and took off with no problem. The OSS men were extremely upset with the French and wanted to stay to make certain they kept their word in regard to the Navy Personnel. We flew back to Mengtze.
We later reassembled and flew back to French Indo China as command had been advised that the Navy Personnel were there and ready to be picked up. Circling the strip we could see that it obvious that there had been heavy rains the past few days. In as much as the strip was dirt RASMUSSEN got into a big discussion with the OSS as to wether the landing should be attempted. At that time six individuals, looking like Americans, came out of the building and started running around and waving and looked like the boys we were to pick up. We decided to take the chance and land. We almost nosed over and the Major said we were in trouble for as we attempted to turn off the strip we were sliding and slipping.
and I again did our thing out on the wings.
We were to have picked up seven Navy personnel however only six arrived
at the field. They were in extremely poor physical condition but elated
to see us. After we took off they told us they did not think much of the
Army Air Force (the old Army Navy rivalry) but our C-47 was the most beautiful
plane they had ever seen. Ready for take off we all new we were in
trouble due to the muddy field. RASMUSSEN told COLDREN to walk along
side as we taxied to note how far we were sinking in mud as he was using
a lot more power than usual. Returning to the aircraft COLDREN advised
that our wheels were sinking about six inches and that sometimes the wheels
were sliding nor rolling. RASMUSSEN then took the ship back as far
as possible and with RANCK’S and his feet pressing on the brakes as hard
as they could he went into full power thus lifting the tail off the ground
and causing the wheels to slip. He had advised that we all sit forward
with no moving.
I was requested to advise the Major how to contact Navy Intelligence that
they be advised we had six of their men and the where abouts of the seventh
was unknown. Answering Major RASMUSSEN’S request as to what frequency they
monitored I advised he try VHF channel C located on the set behind his
head. He stated that he never had any success with that set but gave
it a try and received a reply. The message was in verbal code.
I believe the code for the Navy men was Lollipops. Asking for an
acknowledgment he waited and then a loud voice came through 5 by 5 with
a 10-4 and congratulations.
Returning home we took turns going back to talk to the Navy personnel and
they took turns coming forward to look around the cockpit. One mentioned
that the French had treated them poorly on the march out. They had to do
all hard work, do all the cooking and cleanup and then could not eat until
the French were finished.
They remarked that they never knew a ship could shake and make so much noise on take off – my answer on this was “ME TOO.”
Colonel RANCK referred to was RANCK, Nate (A-3 of the Sixty-Ninth Composite wing.)
Major RASMUSSEN referred to was RASMUSSEN, James H. S. (Commander of the Twenty Seventh Troop Carrier Squadron.)
Master Sergeant COLDREN referred to was COLDREN, William F.
Sergeant LEAM referred to was LEAM, Harry J. “Bud”
The archives has learned of how the people of French Indo China hid the Navy Flyers from the Japanese by moving them continuously from room to room in a hospital while the enemy was searching the building. The tale will be told at a later date.
Confusion reigned heavy in the C..B.I. Theater but no where more than in French Indo China. The interests of the British, the French, the Chinese Nationalisms and the followers of Ho Chi Minh created a tight rope for President Roosevelt to walk and several of his decisions in the area have been questioned by historians.
The Japanese entered Indo China on 22 September 1940 after lengthy negotiations with the French government. They were given rights to prevent supplies from moving northward into China. The government was basically left in place until Japan launched its drive northward into China at which time “The Land of the Rising Sun” slaughtered all before them as they moved up in support of the action. The followers of National China’s policy conducted heavy guerrilla activities supported in part at that time and date by Ho Chi Minh and the Twenty Seventh – even though against President Roosevelt’s wishes.
Harry A. Blair