My Father's War
Bill Sharp
A son's tribute to his father's part in World War II


CBI Theater: 17 Long Months

He was a Fire Fighter NCO (noncommissioned officer) in India serving in the 1346th Army Airforces Base Unit. He spend most of 1944 and 1945 there. Date of arrival on his discharge papers indicated October 7, 1944 and date of departure December 30, 1945. His total foreign service was one year, 4 months and 20 days (about 500 days). This is the only photo we have of him in India.
Click to enlarge.

Although he did not talk about it, conditions were rough. Most of the airstrips were along the Bramaputna River. The troops lived in tents. In the summer, temperatures typically reached over 100 degrees. In the rainy months, the Monsoon rains were constant.

The CBI Theater had heating up significantly by the time he arrived in October 1944. The Allies had beaten back the Japanese by retaking the Myitkina Airfield in northern Burma in May 1943. Early in 1944, Japanese troops invaded India and surrounded the towns of Imphal and Kohima. The Japanese did not withdraw until late June 1944.

One of the stories my mother recalls is that he would gather some food rations on a regular basis and with another soldier take the food to a mountain village. Upon approaching the village they would hear the Indian residents singing Christian hymns in their own language.

Here he is on his crash truck with crew. Although this photo was taken in Tampa, Florida, in 1943, prior to his leaving for the CBI Theater, it gives you an idea of the type of equipment used. The boom on the top would swing around and pump CO2 on burning planes allowing some distance for the firefighters but not much. Click on it to enlarge.

The Hump airlift had grown from 1200 tons per month in 1943 to 1200 tons per day by November of 1944. Losses of aircraft had dropped as well. In 1943, there were two aircraft lost for every 1,000 hours of flying time. By 1945, there were only two aircraft lost for every 10,000 hours. The Hump airlift continued as long as the Burma Road was held by the Japanese. The Allies constructed the Ledo Road which opened in January 1945. In November 1945, the Hump airlift ended.

To put this in context, the War in Europe was quickly moving to a defeat of Germany in 1944 with the Invasion of Normandy on June 6 and the Battle of the Bulge on December 16. The final surrender of Germany took place on May 7, 1945.

In the Pacific Theater, the Allies landed in the Philippines in October 1944 and Iwo Jima was captured on March 16, 1945. The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The Japanese surrender was signed on September 2, 1945.

<<Previous | Next >>