The advance party has just taken off and we take off in 48 hours. Latest change was that we don’t actually go to Reims but to a place about 20 miles South – Chalons sur Marne. I don’t know how big a place it is – but it’s just as well, because Reims must be an awfully congested place right now. We passed Chalons when we came thru France, but we were through that area – and it’s a very pretty part of France.
Gee – our mail situation will be all fouled up for a few days I’m afraid. We’ll probably get a new APO number – although that doesn’t mean much. We’ve already wired ahead to the French base section advising them to hold our mail – but some will undoubtedly come all the way down here and have to follow us back. There was no mail at all – yesterday – and I’m so anxious to have some now. I’m anxious to hear from Lawrence – and also to hear about Ruth. Frankly, darling, I’ve been very uneasy about Ruth since I received Lawrence’s letter – and yet I think it’s right that he told me. I’m her brother, after all, and if there’s any worrying to do – I should do my share. Oh I know it doesn’t help – but that doesn’t change human nature. Today is Ruth’s Birthday and I do hope she’s home by now and doing well.
And Lawrence has me down, too. He’s undoubtedly going to the C.B.I. – or the Pacific Theater – and in either case – it’s a long long way from home. Gosh – if I have to go there – I’ll go whacky. I just have to get a job in the States.
I know it must be terrifically difficult for you now, sweetheart, waiting and waiting – now that the war is over and so many fellows are coming home. But hell – what good would just 30 days be? Boy – I’d like to have 30 days right now! The days are so damned long now – particularly since we’ve learned we’re to move. I’m so anxious to find out what our mission is and to get an idea how long it will take.
Yesterday was very windy and cool – but we played tennis in the p.m. – just to kill some time. And in the evening – we saw “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. It was well acted and all that – but too drab, dark and morbid for my mood. I’d have preferred a lively musical.
Today, dear, I’ve got to start picking up the various loose ends and packing them away. Some things will have to wait until tomorrow evening. One thing I am not taking is the German Lexicon which is on my desk. I’ve had all of Germany and Germans that I ever want. For that matter – the same goes for the French and the whole of Europe. Now I have to brush up on the French again. Honestly, dear, this going in and out of a country is confusing and it’s difficult getting a sentence out straight.
I guess I’m kind of crabby today, sweetheart, but it’s because I love you so much. What I mean is that because I love you, I’m lonesome for you; and I’m lonesome because I have to be over here – and because I’m over here so long – I’m getting crabby. Well – I’ll snap out of it – but not really until the day I hit the States. I’ll certainly say a prayer of thanks on that day, dear.
And now – so long for awhile, darling. Hope to hear from you today. Love to the folks – and
AAF HQ. - Capt. Frank W. Peterson maneuvered the helicopter through the maze of jungled Burma peaks and set the small ship down on a rough strip atop a razorback mountain whose sides fell off steeply to narrow valleys 2,500 feet below. Twenty-four hours later, after gas and oil had been air-dropped, he took off again, this time carrying a passenger: 21-year-old Pvt Howard Ross, ground observer at an isolated weather station outpost in North Burma who was suffering from a badly infected gunshot wound in his hand. This air evacuation mission, marking the first time a helicopter had been employed in rescue work in this Theater, climaxed one of the most amazing stories to come out of India-Burma.
The story had its beginning when, after the forced landing of a B-25 on an isolated mountain-top in Burma, it was determined that a helicopter would be necessary to effect the rescue of the bomber crew, none of whom were injured. The request was made by radio to Army Air Forces Headquarters in Washington. A crew at Wright Field, Ohio, was ordered to begin the dismantling of a helicopter and, working all night, loaded it upon a C-54 cargo plane by the following morning. meanwhile, Peterson, a Wright Field test pilot was ordered to accompany the engineering crew to Burma.
Four days later, the C-54 with its rescue mission cargo landed at Myitkyina, only to learn that the men they had been rushed overseas to rescue had already been evacuated. It was decided, however, to continue with the assembly of the helicopter as rapidly as possible in the event another emergency should arise.
Late that night, Lt. Leo J. Kenney, commanding officer of the jungle rescue unit, awakened Peterson and told him that a member of a weather station located high on a 4,700-foot mountain in the Naga Hills had accidentally shot himself. Infection had set in and, with medical aid 10 days distant by mountain trail, air rescue had to be attempted despite the inaccessibility of the station even to parachute jumping.
Assembly of the helicopter was rushed to completion the following morning. The afternoon was devoted to test hops, designed to take any kinks out of the aircraft. The following morning the rescue mission took off.
|Assembling the Helicopter|
Since the helicopter was not equipped with radio and Peterson and Lt. Irwin C. Steiner, another veteran pilot from Wright Field who accompanied Peterson, were flying over unfamiliar territory, the rescue ship was escorted by two L-5's piloted by T/Sgt. William H. Thomas and S/Sgt. Gibson L. Jones.
Four times, the helicopter became separated from its guide planes, a low ceiling having enveloped the mountain country. But each time the planes renewed contact. Once the helicopter made three attempts before finally topping a 5,000-foot mountain peak. Another time, the ship ran out of gas and had to make a forced landing on a sand bank in the Chindwin River, where Peterson and Steiner sat down and waited for fuel to be air-dropped from the L-5's.
Up in the air once more, the helicopter climbed up over rocky peaks which jutted sharp above matted jungle, finally landing at the crude air-drop field near the weather station just before running out of gas again. The next day, nine days after engineers began disassembling the helicopter at Wright Field, Peterson flew the wounded man out of the jungle.