CBI Rescue

Vol. IV No. 1. Delhi, Thursday, Sept. 13, 1945. Reg. No. L5015

 

Troop Carrier Non-Com Survives
Epic Parachute Drop In Burma

Drops Over 7,000 Feet With Only Arm In Ring

By PVT. W. E. CHILTON   Roundup Field Correspondent

SECOND TROOP CARRIER SQ., ASSAM – From the confusion that was war came a lot of stories of rescue and survival, but none can top the recent wild parachute ride of Sgt. John Stevens of Woodstown, N.J., over the tangled North Burma terrain.
Stevens is a crew chief in the Second Troop Carrier Squadron, veteran transport outfit which has seen two and a half years service in all three nations of the CBI Theater.   He was heading in a C-46 towards the foothills of The Hump when at  7,000 feet altitude the right engine commenced sputtering. Seconds later the radio operator tore past him, grabbed a parachute and opened half the cargo door.

General Stillwell talking with members of the 2nd Troop Carrier Squadron

BAIL OUT
Making his way to the cockpit in order to offer his service to the pilot, Stevens perceived there was nothing that could be done. The pilot was yelling at the top of his lungs, “Bail out! Bail out!” Stevens retraced his steps to the rear of the plane and pulled a parachute from its rack. However, the C-46 was being buffeted about so badly by the terrific up and down drafts that he was unable to remain on his feet.
Stretched full length on the floor of the heaving aircraft, the sergeant attempted wriggling into the chute. This, likewise, proved futile. In utter despair he hooked his arm through one of the loops which emanate from the seat of the chute and pondered vaguely the next step in this grotesque nightmare.
He hadn’t long to wait. One instant he was recumbent along the floor, and then, falling figure in space. It took a while to realize the only possible means of succor was hooked in the crook of his arm. Twisting and turning he groped for the ripcord release, found it, yanked, then miraculously, the chute slowly, slowly unraveled, and the slowness of the unraveling was yet another marvel, for if the big nylon blanket had blossomed forth in one grand jerking operation, as is generally the procedure, the tremendous pressure exerted would have torn Stevens’ arm from its socket.

BLOODY GASH
In his descent he helplessly watched blood stream from a wide gash in his leg.  As the ground rushed nearer, Stevens saw in dismay the skyscraper trees, the jungle grass, and the coarse and intertwining vines.  But in that wonderful bag of luck there was plenty left, for he was finally caught up two feet from the earth.  A simple turn and he was safe on the ground.
His leg needed immediate attention. Orientation in Burmese jungles would leave an Eagle Scout cold, but began climbing, stumbling and crawling.   He had gone half-way up a knoll, when the babble of a foreign language reached his ears.

Naga tribesmen of Burma, WWII

HEAD HUNTERS
Upper Burma was and still is the home of several fierce head-hunting tribes, but these people proved friendly, particularly after an ample distribution of American cigarettes had been accomplished. American cigarettes are in fact to these Hills men what the Coca-Cola advertisements purport to be with the inhabitants of South America.
After a relaxing smoke, followed by a round table discussion through the medium of sign language, the tribesmen motioned Stevens to follow them. The party soon stumbled upon a small clearing. Here, a lean-to was constructed and while one of the natives remained behind with the stranded crew member, the rest proceeded to their village.
Two days passed in the lean-to before the first group returned with a home-made litter, on which they carried Stevens to a more permanent abode on the outskirts of their jungle hamlet. The Naga hills men fed him their native food: boiled rice, eggs, cracked corn, chicken and large, thin pancakes made of an ersatz flour. It wasn’t the Blue-Plate Special at the Waldorf Astoria, but it kept the sergeant alive.

HUMOROUS SIDE
During Stevens’ 19 days in these simple, rustic surroundings there were many incidents bordering on the humorous side. Upon first arriving, the local witch doctor showed a great desire to practice his wizardry on the sergeant’s injured leg. Stevens had to use all his diplomacy to dissuade the Naga medic and at the same time retain his friendship. Another such instance cropped up when the local chieftain brought a pipe to his bedside. One puff convinced the sergeant that the pipe contained, among other things, a good deal of opium, and he hastily put it aside. The jungles do, nevertheless, have their saloons, and the sergeant quaffed saku or as it is termed by our soldiers, bamboo juice. Saku is a concoction similar to the atomic bomb, both in content and effect.
Though skilled in the jungle, it takes even the Nagas many days to travel in their dense tropical homeland, and despite a runner being dispatched to the nearest Army outpost immediately after Stevens’ first contact with his hill friends, it was almost two weeks later that two members from the ATC Search & Rescue Unit reached him. They were Pfc. Joseph Fruge of Aberlin, La., and Pfc. Marvin C. Roberts of Mobile, Ala. They had parachuted, in the prescribed parachute method, into a clearing in a village about 14 trail miles away. A two day trek brought them to Stevens.

Stevens receives congratulations from his two rescuers, Pfc. Marvin Roberts, left, and Pfc. Joseph Fruge, prior to being evacuated successfully from the Burma jungles

SLOW EVACUATION
The leg was still in poor shape, in fact, gangrene had set in, but the original treatment had tempered the infection. With the coming of these G.I. angels of mercy, skilled in the latest medical developments, new wonders of science were hastily applied.
A short convalescent period and the patient was ready for evacuation – at best a slow and lengthy process. It was decided to build a tiny landing strip in a rice clearing not far off. This field would be large enough for an L-5 to land and take-off.
Exactly 19 days after Stevens’ unexpected appearance in the woods, two L-5’s, piloted by Capt. Jacob F. Craft of Galesburg, Ill., and Lt. Harold L. Haviland of Glendale, Calif., arrived at the small airfield. Stevens was loaded aboard Craft’s plane and flown directly to Upper Assam, where he eventually wound up in the 234th General Hospital.

NAGAS REWARDED
The Naga Hills men, by whose devotion and loyalty the life of another American had been saved, were well rewarded for their efforts. Two hundred pounds of rice were dropped from the air to the villagers and Stevens own squadron contributed another hundred pounds of rice and salt, two staples highly prized by these primitive people.
What happened to his plane is not precisely known and probably never will be. It apparently exploded, and parts of the fuselage and wings were discovered by the same rescue party which came to Stevens.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Sad Sack from “YANK” magazine

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Farewell Salutes – 

Walter Bingaman – Everett, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, navigator

Evelyn Cookson – Natick, MA; US Army, WAC, WWII, ETO, 50th Field Hospital

Tsugio Egawa – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII

Joseph Fisher – Finksburg, MD; US Navy, WWII / USMC, Korea

Joseph Gallo – Corning, NY; US Army, WWII, 64/16th Armored Division, Bronze Star

Richard Halford – Pontiac, MI; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Helen McBride – Lancaster, PA; US Army WAC, WWII

Ross Perot – Texarkana,TX; US Navy / Presidential Candidate

Nicholas Sacharewicz – Pinsk, POL; Polish 2nd Corps, WWII, ETO, Medal of Valour

Douglas Vahry – Taupo, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 391204, WWII, Flight Photo Intel Officer

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 18, 2019, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 123 Comments.

  1. Now that’s one heck of a story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stevens was very, very lucky!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing story – the native second on the right headdress reminds me very much of New Guinea native headdresses.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What an outstanding account. It’s almost to unreal to be true. But it does show that you just can’t perfectly predict operations

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I would have thought the opium would have helped with the pain!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Fascinating and amazing story gp, great to see the villagers were rewarded for their efforts, a public relations gesture that probably added to the Americans advantage in the long term.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. There is a great episode on “Secrets of the Dead” called “The Airmen and the Headhunters” https://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/the-airmen-and-the-headhunters-watch-the-full-episode/499/. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a dramatic story. Sounds like it should be made into a movie. Imagine the fear of hanging onto a parachute with one arm, and then upon landing find you were surrounded by headhunters. Liked the reciprocal kindness that was paid by both groups in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. thanks for sharing touches
    of humanity during that war!
    hope there are still headhunters 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What an amazing story. Sometimes, things do work out. I smiled at the ‘bamboo juice.’ I’m wondering if it might have been a local version of palm wine, which is light and non-alcoholic when first tapped from the tree, but which quickly begins to ferment and becomes stronger. I had it in Liberia, and I found that there are versions all around the world, including all of the Pacific theaters like Burma, the Philippines, and so on. Sometimes it’s distilled, but its great virtue for villagers is that it doesn’t have to be; it will get that greater ‘punch’ all on its own.
    In fact, old palm wine can get so yeasty it can be used in bread baking!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great story. I have, and could spend hours reading stories in “CBI, and the later India-Burma Roundup.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Truly a heart warming story.

    Like

  13. GP. Just perused your July posts….so impressive as always….love you July 4 tribute! I think of you & “Pacific Paratrooper” from time to time. We have been struggling here. We went from moving into a new townhouse in April, which was an exhausting experience in itself, to wife Geri coming down with diverticulitis mid-May. It’s been a painful struggle for her ever since. She will have surgery in the weeks to come to remove the bad section of the intestine. Best to you always. May you be well. Send us some prayers. Phil

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate you thinking of us here, despite being so busy and caring for your wife. Please give Geri all my best wishes for her swift recovery!!!
      All the very best in your new home!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Incredible story of courage, determination, humanity, and luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A truly amazing sequence of events

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A whole lifetime’s good luck used up in one episode!! What a lucky, lucky man!! Thanks for sharing this great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. GP, you always do such a great job in conveying these astounding historical moments. But, this one was one really terrific account. Thanks! ‘O)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Subtle. Ya gotta be subtle, especially with the discrepancies in pay—subtle, but there for the taking …

    Liked by 1 person

  19. In those days Naga were still very much head hunters (although they denied it). But friendlier to the allies than the Japanese … a good reason to be thankful.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Wonderful story, GP. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. That guy had a lot of luck! Lovely post G.P

    Liked by 1 person

  22. A remarkable story so well described here. M 🙂

    Like

  23. Wowza! What a great story! These are the stories they should be sharing in school history classes, but don’t.

    Now you got me thinking about the countries, different cultures, situations, etc., our soldiers have had to “step into”. From other stories I’ve heard they often care about the peoples they meet and even help many they aren’t expected to help. I know my oldest brother has shared about how he, and some of his fellow soldiers, helped children they encountered in Vietnam.

    HA! Love the latrine humor!!! 😀

    BTW: I sent an e-mail and heard back from Brian’s (LordBeariOfBow) daughter and he is still in the hospital and said to tell all of us HI! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What a great story! Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Fascinating, GP. I’m glad they rewarded the tribesmen. I wish the US had a better track record with our local allies (I’m thinking the Hmong in Vietnam and the Kurds in Syria.)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wow. What a story. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Love the toilet humour!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. His luck certainly held out! Of course, it would have been luckier if the plane hadn’t developed problems in the first place, but let’s not be picky . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  29. About his leg – “The leg was still in poor shape, in fact, gangrene had set in, but the original treatment had tempered the infection.” Quaffing saku?

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Great story GP. This is almost like the true story I read a few years ago of survival, encounter with the wild hunters of New Guinea and rescue by paratroopers. The title of the book is Lost in Shangrila by Mitchell Zuckoff. Highly recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Wow, what an experience. Bet he never wanted to sky dive for the fun of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. What a great story. I’m proud of our American and the Hill men.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Holy Hannah! What an amazing story, GP. It would make a great Indiana Jones movie. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Wow! What an amazing survival story!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What a great story. It must have been like stepping through a door to an alternative universe.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. What a great story! I wonder if the witch doctor could’ve helped his leg though?

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Fascinating story … and rescued by Headhunters! Good thing he had those cigarettes or he might have lost his head.

    I liked Sad Sack as well! I had forgotten about that cartoon!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Wow! True miracles.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Myra Miller said that Soldiers Stories II is scheduled to publish September 1. ‘Bout time!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Pierre Lagacé

    Great story GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Always a pleasure to read a story of determined survival against the odds. And good to hear that the kindness of those tribesmen was repaid with things valuable to them.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. this is amazing. a combination of grit and luck and universal humanity at its finest.

    Liked by 4 people

  1. Pingback: CBI Rescue — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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