GETTING THE JOB DONE THE OLD FASHION WAY
BURWELL, Lewis C., Jr.
In may of 1944, from TDY in Calcutta, I was sent to Kunming, China on a number one priority where I was to meet various staff officers of the Fourteenth Air Force. My mission was to devise an air support and supply plan for the Salween Offensive. I expressed a desire to look at the terrain and make a judgment about the feasibility of air drops in that particularly rugged area.
I though that command would find me a B-25 or P-40, but no, Colonel Johnny Neil, an A-3 of the Fourteenth, got somebody to round up a PT-17.
Suyoung was on the way of my flight to the Salween, thus a Colonel George McReynolds (field artillery officer attached to the Chinese Y Forces) wanted to go down to Suyoung to meet with General Dorn. I was selected to drop him off.
I didn’t feel terrible confident in the PT-17 since I had never been in one before but after a little bit of study in the cockpit, and a brief review of the manual, I managed to take off. At those elevations and with that dinky power plant the airplane just did not want to climb on the downwind side of the ridges. Fortunately I had gone through the sail-plane course at Twenty-Nine Palms and was a rated glider pilot, so I knew how to handle that type of terrain with that type of problem. Lots of times we only skimmed the treetops at maybe 50 to 75 feet, but I would get a little lift on the upwind side then dive through the downwind side on the next ridge hoping I would clear it. If not I would back off and try again.
Finally we got into Suyoung, which I had never seen before, and didn’t realize what a nervous critter this thing was on the ground and I almost ground looped it in landing in a cross wind. But when we got out McReynolds, who had on a overseas cap turned sideways pulled down to the tip of his nose, got out, removed his chute, turned and said “son you’re a very fine pilot but you sure scared the h---- out of me.”