ALASKA’S SENATOR TED STEVENS RECALLS FIRST FLIGHT TO PEKING
by Everett Long
I parked my C-46 right up there next to the Japanese Bettys . The 46 dwarfed their Bettys. We had taken a striped down weapons carrier on board for our ground transportation. They couldn’t believe it when we just opened the doors — drove off the ramps — and drove off with that weapons carrier. They (the Japanese) had never seen a plane that size on the ground ……..
Left Photo: We had to hastily make up our own (approach) using an old radio station they had in the city. I remember the time I went to Peking again, sometime after the war. They were using the let-down (procedures) I had made up that first day after the war.
Lt. Ted Stevens, 20, was flying Douglas C-47’s and Curtiss C-46’s for General Claire Chennault deep in the mainland of China. Chennault, who began fighting the Japanese invaders to China with his famous Flying Tigers commanded the 14th Air Force. Stevens, who is Alaska’s senior senator, recalls those flights at the close of World War Two in 1944-45.
Stevens went through pilot training at Douglas, Arizona, and earned his Army Air Corps wings in May, 1944. I went in when I was 19, and got my wings when I was 20, Stevens recalled. Three of us in that class were immediately sent to China. Chennault sent a 47 (C-47)
out to pick us up for the flight through Burma. He needed some replacement pilots in for the 14th Air Force Transport Section. The 14th was the successor to the old Flying Tiger Transport Section, who had been flying for Chennault before the US government turned Chennaults’s group into the 14th Air Force. The new group became the 322nd Troop Carrier Squadron.
I flew 47’s for about five months in 1944 — then we went into 46’s in about September, he said. From the squadron’s primary base at K’un-ming flights ranged from inland China, to Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam), and up into Mongolia. We were flying Chinese troops and supplies around the country, as well as supplies to our small fighter bases throughout China.
The C-46 was a great plane — that was –after they got rid of the electronic feathering mechanism. We lost about half of our planes in the first week we got them.
There were several places like at Lo-ping where the airstrips were camouflaged and hard to locate. One strip was called Postage Stamp because it was so small and narrow. The airstrip was cut into a hillside with a few inches to spare for a C-46’s wing tips.