Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Hump

Kunming, China
Christmas 1943 

The eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains was called “The Hump” by pilots who flew transport aircraft between India and China during the Second World War. The military airlift over the treacherous Himalayas supplied the Allies in China, including advance units of the U.S. Army. The missions were dangerous. In addition to the notable absence of airfields, there were no reliable navigation charts or radio aids and the weather was often  bad. The logistical challenge of operating this aerial pipeline is reflected by a non-traditional dinner at Army headquarters in Kunming, China on Christmas in 1943. Undoubtedly, the most appreciated item was a beverage not shown on the menu. 

The Chinese phrase “Ding Hao!” appears on the cover shown above. Before taking off on flights in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI), American pilots would call out “Ding Hao!” (meaning “thumbs up”) for good luck. The menu was issued for the so-called Y-Force commanded by Brigadier General Frank “Pinkie” Dorn. In April of the following year, this unit would mount an offensive on the Yunnan front against the Japanese army in northern Burma. 

In the meantime, General Dorn wanted to stage an elaborate Christmas celebration for his officers and men. The extensive program below includes juggling acts, fire eaters, sword fights, and a tree lighting ceremony. 

The difficulty of supplying this forward echelon is reflected on the bill of fare which features fried chicken (with cranberry sauce) instead of turkey. It was highly irregular for the military not to provide the troops with a turkey dinner on the holiday. Another unusual aspect of the meal was the beer that was served but not shown on the menu. As it happened, Dorn broke the rules and arranged to have 13 tons of American beer flown in for the occasion. 

When word got out about the “illegal shipment” of beer over the Hump, Dorn was called on the carpet by his caustic superior, Lieutenant General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell. Since the beer had already arrived in Kunming, Stilwell decided that it could be used as planned, but declined an invitation to attend the event saying that he did not want to be “an accessory in the violation of (his) own theater orders.” Dorn later reported that the Christmas party was a “WOW.”


Bob Ridout said...

Interesting insight into a little publicized campaign of WW2. Good to see your blog back active. I always enjoy your posts.

LS Gourmet said...

So glad to see you back. I missed these moments in history seen through my favorite reference point - food.

Jan Whiataker said...

Strange combination of food, but probably the best they could do.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a wonderful Christmas dinner. Fried chicken is never a bad idea.

Glad to see a new post from you!