Friday night is "party" night, TGIF, at the Emerald Hills Golf Course clubhouse and a social at the Okoboji Yacht Club. We see lots of our friends; make new acquaintances and lots of conversation. The entrance fee at Emerald is some snacks and your presence. This past week my wife Connie boiled two dozen eggs to make deviled eggs for our contribution. She had boiled the eggs and I helped by peeling some. The finished product was wonderful and they didn’t last very long at the TGIF.
While peeling the eggs I had a flashback to the spring of 1945. The United States was still at war with Japan and the Americans were supplying the Chinese with military supplies. In order to get the supplies to China the materials had to leave from India and for many years we had flown over of "The Hump" (Himalaya Mountains) to Kunming, China. C-46 and C-47 were used to transport the war materials and it was a very dangerous route. We lost many men and planes in that operation.
Early in the war the Chinese had constructed a road from Kunming, China through Burma called the Burma Road but the Japanese had advanced and closed that supply line. The Americans were constructing a road from northern India to connect to the old Burma Road called the Ledo Road but there was heavy fighting to push the Japanese out of Burma. The Americans and British forces accomplished that feat about the time the Ledo Road was completed in the early days of 1945. The Ledo-Burma Road was then ready for convoys to travel from northeast India to China. The road was 1,500 miles long over some of the highest mountains and dense jungles in the world.
Convoys of 50 GMC 2.5 ton trucks with a half ton trailer constituted the majority of the vehicles carrying military supplies from ammunition and mortar shells to medical supplies and clothing. I was assigned to one of the first convoys to drive from India to China. The truck we used was carrying three tons of mortar shells. The distance was 1,500 miles and it took us two weeks to complete the journey. The fighting between the Americans and the Japanese had just been completed and we traveled through areas of destruction and battlegrounds with evidence that had not been cleaned up with Japanese bodies still unburied and remains of tanks and vehicles burned.
One of the first days of our travels was crossing the Irrawaddy River in Burma over which our engineers had constructed a wooden pontoon bridge. Driving a heavy GMC truck and trailer across that wide river was scary. Another day we drove up a mountain that had 22 switchbacks from the bottom to the top. We put our trucks in low gear and crept up the mountain. Our truck speed was so slow one of us took turns getting out of the truck, climbing up to the next switchback and jumped back on our truck 20 or so minutes later.
The engineers had constructed stations along the Burma-Ledo Road where we stopped each night and refueled. Many times it was only an open field. Like the pioneers of old, we made a huge circle with our trucks with the mess truck in the center. We slept beside our trucks with a folding canvas and wooden cot and a jungle hammock. I placed the cot beside the truck and attached the jungle hammock to the truck and the other end to the bottom of the cot. I had a thin mattress, sheets and blankets, a waterproof canvas top and mosquito netting with a zipper. I crawled in and zipped myself in for the night. In the morning would untie the hammock from the truck, roll it up, put rope around it and throw it into the back of the truck.
When I think back we were very naive as we posted no guards. Each truck had two soldiers assigned and we alternated driving. We carried our water and each night refueled our trucks. My one regret of the whole trip was I only had a 120 box camera and would have liked to have had a "smartphone." Many days it was very dusty and hot but the engineers had provided backed-up streams to make swimming pools but they were chilly.
Many of the roads were through jungles in Burma and when the U.S. got into Vietnam I could acquaint with the GIs crawling and walking in the jungles of Vietnam. You can’t imagine how thick the trees, vines and foliage are unless you see it firsthand. Our American engineers did a wonderful job of constructing the Ledo Road plus extending a gasoline line from India. They also constructed water purification stations along the whole route. Day by day we had specular scenes of mountains, jungles. rivers and valleys that were never the same. Many times we were above the clouds but never drove very fast as we were in a convoy of 50 trucks. You can imagine the dust. The officer in charge was kind of a "hotshot" so he had a special jeep but after one day in that jeep he rode with us in a truck and we took turns driving the jeep as it was rough, rough, rough.
We finally arrived in China. The first night some Chinese came around selling chicken eggs. I purchased two dozen, took my steel helmet, filled it full of water, built a fire under it and boiled those eggs. That is the "flashback" I had when helping Connie peel eggs for the TGIF. Wow! Did those hardboiled eggs I boiled in China in 1945 taste good. A bit of salt sprinkled on them really improved them. I ate hard boiled eggs for several days and parceled them out to some good buddies. We had plenty of eggs while in China. The last camp where I was stationed, each morning we had pancakes and eggs. To this day my favorite breakfast is a pancake sandwich-two fried eggs between two pancakes with plenty of syrup. Wow! I stayed in China until November of 1945 and finally arrived in Milford in January of 1946. Uncle Sam gave me a journey clear around the earth while in WWII.