Monday, June 6, 2016

Dippy Correction

I want to thank CSThelen for her questions that made me look more closely at the story of my grandfather's B-24 crash, which I stated was in the Himalayas when he was flying "the Hump" in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II.

While Papa did, indeed, fly the Hump, the crash of the Dippy Dave happened on a later mission, when he was stationed at Yankai Air Base in Yunnan Province, China. My timing was off. I conflated two different stories into one, so let's separate them out.

The primary operation of the Hump was to airlift supplies into China from India because the Allies didn't have any forward operating locations in China from which to attack Japan. This supply operation took place in 1942. My husband found out years ago that Papa flew cargo aircraft in addition to bombers, and this operation was part of his airlift experience...certainly part that prepared him to fly in the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49.

In 1943, the Yankai Air Base was in place, and Papa was assigned there, flying the B-24 with the 373rd Squadron. The bailout happened after a mission on May 4, 1943, targeting a Japanese airfield on Hainan Island. Interestingly, the book Chennault's Forgotten Warriors by Carroll V. Glines gets a detail of the Dippy Dave's crash wrong. It says that one of the crew (unnamed) died when his parachute failed to open. According to Lt. Williams' diary, however, all the crew made it out safe and back to base. Lt. Williams was the bombardier for the mission.

Glines' book says the cause of the crash was a failure in the fuel pump system that kept the fuel in the bomb bay tanks rather than allowing transfer to the wing tanks. The book also contains a facsimile of the one-page report (marked Secret), dated May 5, 1943, of the attack on the airport, listing Papa's plane as missing.

Lt. Williams also wrote an account detailing the bailout, which has some minor discrepancies with his diary account of events. (See his son's note at the end of the transcript.)  The diary also makes a statement that is physically improbable (that he walked 50-60 miles in one day...probably meant 5-6 miles, though I imagine it felt like 50-60 miles!).

The diary and the bailout account are fascinating reading, if you have the time, and I'm comforted by the discrepancies. If one of the men who lived this situation got a detail or two wrong, and if historian Carroll V. Glines got a detail wrong, it's understandable that I would, with my oh-so-human memory, conflate two different experiences told to me years ago.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all eight men had written their accounts? I would especially appreciate reading something from Stanley Marshall, a flight engineer, who never linked up with the rest of the crew and arrived much later at scary to be without company for so long! I'm sure there would have been more discrepancies between the eight accounts, but also more of the human story we glimpse through Lt. William's diary and account.

Again, thank you, CSThelen, for making me look a little deeper. I hope this clears up any confusion.

Click on Image To Go Back To Diary
Dippy Dave Crew at Yankai Air Base.
My grandfather, D.L. Willis, is standing
at far right. Source


  1. How can I snail mail you? Pax et bonum, Carol

  2. I think you probably could walk 50 or 60 miles in a day, though it would make for an awful day! I'm thinking that would probably take about 16 hours?
    Anyway, interesting story. Wonderful that the whole crew made it back safely.


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