Carl I.  Earth Measurer. Excerpt from unpublished
WORLD WAR II: Mapping the World
The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in World War II
after the outbreak of World War II, the armed forces realized
that the officers of our service possessed unique skills which
they could utilize in various branches. As a result a law was
hurriedly passed by Congress authorizing the transfer of individual
officers by name to each of the branches when requested and
approved by our service. [Editor's note: actually, the law forming
the commissioned service of the C&GS which was passed in
1917 authorized this transfer in time of war.] The transfer
was by Executive order, each transfer being made by the President
when the individual was requested. Approximately 25% [Editor's
note: it is true that a core group of C&GS officers served
for the greater part of the war in other services; however,
over 50 percent of C&GS officers saw service in the Armed
Services for varying periods of time during the war] of our
officers served in the other services in that manner for the
duration of the war. They served in all the branches, the Army,
Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and what was at that time, the Army
Air Forces. [Editor's note: no officer of the C&GS served
in the Coast Guard during WWII.] In my case, I was transferred
at first to the Air Weather Service which at that time was in
day I was transferred I once again had slight symptoms of malaria
but they only lasted a few hours.
My Service in the Air Weather Service
the spring of 1942, I was transferred to the Air Weather Service
which was under the Army then. In accordance with an order of
the Adjutant General, I adopted the uniform of the corresponding
grade. I was a Lieut. Commander when transferred, and so I was
required to wear the uniform and rank insignia of a major. This
caused me considerable additional expense as I had recently
purchased some new C.&G.S. uniforms. As a result, my income
tax for that year was questioned by the IRS, but they accepted
work in the weather service consisted of (1) building up a file
of world wide maps, (2) and designing a series of world weather
charts at a scale of 1/10,000,000. The chart design problem
was simple. I selected the coverage and the type of projection
and was told of the additional information desired on the chart
such as the scale with latitude and the geostrophic wind scales.
Then I turned the printing of the charts over to the Coast Survey.
adopted a chart numbering system with the numbers consecutive
and preceded by the letters WRC for Weather Research Center
where I was located in the old Weather Bureau building. I doubt
if anyone now in the Air Force knows what those letters stand
for. We moved shortly to a building on Pennsylvania Avenue and
later into the Pentagon.
White House Spanish Class
was about to be ordered away and Marian was invited to join
the White House Spanish Class. It was taught by a handsome Latin
whom all the ladies in the class liked. Both Bess Truman and
Mamie Eisenhower attended the classes regularly as well as many
Washington socialites. Marian has a large photograph of that
class and can identify most of the members.
was customary for different members of the class to take turns
in helping serve the luncheon, and Marian said that when it
was the turn of Bess Truman in the White House she donned an
apron and worked just like anybody else although she was the
wife of the vice-president.
Promotion to Commander
after my transfer, my commanding officer told me he was promoting
me to Lieut. Colonel. I was forced to inform him that the matter
was not that simple. It was necessary to make a request to the
Coast Survey to give me a temporary promotion to the rank of
Commander, whereupon I could adopt the rank of Lieut. Colonel.
He did this, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the
action was taken expeditiously and soon I was wearing the insignia
of the new rank.
completed all my assigned work shortly after I moved to the
Pentagon and felt that I could be more useful elsewhere. I was
aware that a number of our officers were in the First Photo
Reconnaissance Group and were serving abroad and I asked permission
to contact the Commanding Officer of that group. Tison and Doran
were serving in the group and liked the assignment. I was immediately
told that they would be glad to have me attached to the group.
The work consisted of taking charge of astronomic parties to
work in areas where our 1/10,000,000 air charts required improvement.
Col. Yates, (shortly Major General Yates) my commanding officer
in the Pentagon, approved the transfer and shortly afterward
the transfer was made.
Astronomic Work in Brazil,
Uruguay, and Paraguay
was sent to McDill Field in Tampa, Florida and a short time
later was ordered to relieve Tison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Our group was using B-34's and I rode first to Belem, Brazil,
in one of those aircraft. There we refueled and continued on
to Recife. That was a night flight and I thought it might be
my last flight. One of our two engines began to malfunction
and to make matters worse there was low cloud cover. We were
in a mountainous area and had to maintain a considerable altitude
which was becoming difficult with our bad engine. Several times
peaks loomed up above the clouds which could have wrecked our
ship had we hit them.
a cluster of lights showed up through a small gap in the clouds
below. Assuming it to be Recife our pilot dove through them
and came out below the clouds and over the city. We could now
see the airport lights and a few minutes later we were safely
on the ground.
landing and disembarking several of the crew knelt down and
kissed the ground. The members of that crew were heavy drinkers,
but that night at the Officer's Club they all got high on their
days were required to repair the engines, so after the second
day I hitched a ride on a MATS plane for Rio. I was the only
passenger on the plane which was on its way to Rio to pick up
a load of industrial crystals and commercial diamonds. Shortly
after take-off, the crewman took my name for the manifest and
took it to the cockpit. In a moment he returned and said, "The
pilot wants to know if you know anybody in Minneapolis with
your name." I replied, "Tell the pilot that if he means my brother
Arnold, I know him very well." Again he returned and said that
the pilot would like me to come up to the cockpit. When I arrived,
the pilot waved out the co-pilot who was flying from the pilot's
seat and asked me to take his seat.
developed that he was one of Arnold's best friends. He had known
Boots, Arnold's wife, before she became engaged to Arnold. The
pilot and Boots both came from International Falls, Minnesota.
then on, the flight was most enjoyable. Shortly he asked me
if I would like to fly the plane which was a C-47 (The Gooney
Bird). It was no thrill for me, but a pilot thinks he is doing
you a great favor and it is hard to refuse. I took over the
controls and flew nearly all the way to Rio. We approached a
pass over the mountain range which led down to the city, and
I finally told the pilot to take over. I did not want to be
responsible for going through that pass. The sight of Rio from
the approach over the pass was spectacular when seen for the
first time. A small mountain had been leveled in the harbor
to make an airfield. In the background the city of Rio loomed
up on the hillside and the impressive Monte de Asucar, (Sugar
Loaf Mountain) and the enormous Corcocavado statue (Body of
Christ) was on another vertical peak to the south. The cable
car from Sugarloaf to the beach station was plainly visible.
It is a magnificent sight when first seen from the air.
Arrangement to Begin Work
had been in Rio for some time but had done little field work.
Most of his time had been devoted to the collection of data
from the governments of Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay of identifiable
points which could be used on air charts for control. His astronomic
observers were not engineers. The instrument being used was
the 60 Degree astrolabe. The period of training required to
observe with this instrument was brief. Hence, the young officers
used as observers came from such fields as librarians, historians,
archaeologists, business majors, in fact, anything but engineers.
Each party also had two enlisted men. A few observations had
been made and the computations were being made and additional
material was being collected. This occupied a considerable amount
of time and meanwhile I was enjoying that marvelous city of
Rio de Janeiro.
one occasion, two Air Force Generals, both Lieutenant Generals,
came to Rio to consult with the Brazilian Mapping agencies.
They asked me to accompany them, and I did so. After some conversation,
the Brazilians gathered that the Generals knew little about
the subject they came to discuss. Then they learned that I was
from the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, and, thereafter,
all their conversation was addressed to me much to the discomfiture
of the Generals. They were considerably miffed but were helpless
to do anything about it.
Night Clubs of Rio De Janeiro
famous Copacabana Beach was the night club section of the city,
and there were many magnificent night clubs. The three finest
were the Urca, the Copacabana, and the Atlantico. The shows
were as fine as any in the world. The costuming and staging
was magnificent. Famous artists from all over the world came
to those clubs. The best part for us was that the cost was very
low. The reason for this was that gambling casinos were attached
to the club, and most of their income came from that. In spite
of the fact that we did not gamble, we were still treated well
at the clubs.
drinks were ordered at the tables, the full bottles were left
on the table. They had centimeter scales on the side of the
bottles, and, at the time to pay the bill, the waiter read the
scale and one paid for the amount of liquor used in the bottles.
The food was delicious, well-prepared, and inexpensive. One
could stay as long as one wished, even through the second show
if he wished. If one cared for dancing, there was a good dance
floor. At the Urca or Copacabana one could spend an entire evening,
and, when the bill arrived, it would seldom exceed ten to twelve
the Urca the music never stopped. The orchestra was large and
filled a good-sized stage. The entire back of the stage was
a huge mirror. The stage on which the orchestra was playing
would rise and at the same time the mirror back of the stage
would tilt upward. Then the orchestra would slide back into
the opening back of the mirror, and a new orchestra of the same
size would rise upward from the floor below playing the same
selection. After the new orchestra was in place, the background
mirror would again drop into place leaving the new orchestra
on the stage.
- Foz Do Iguassu - The Military Attache's Secretary Flies with Us
was necessary for me to make a trip to Montevideo, Uruguay,
to collect some charting material. I spent several days there,
and the Uruguayans were most cooperative. General Zubia was
in charge at the Servicio Geographico, Militar and Catastral,
and I became very friendly with him. Late in the war, he came
to Washington when I was overseas. The Coast and Geodetic Survey
called Marian and said that he had enquired about me so she
arranged a dinner for him and Admiral Colbert among others.
He spoke little or no English and insisted that Marian with
her meager Spanish interpret for him. Her Spanish had quite
a workout that night.
transportation was a B-34 which was attached to my party. It
was used for transporting the astronomic parties to the sites
of their observations. On our flight from Uruguay to Paraguay,
it was necessary to take a round-about route to avoid flying
over Argentine territory. On the route taken, there is a place
where Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentine meet at Iguassu Falls.
The falls were such a magnificent sight that we circled them;
thus, encroaching for about a mile over Argentine territory.
Months later a diplomatic protest was filed by the Argentine
Government which caused six months correspondence, but there
were no serious results.
Our Passenger to Paraguagy
young lady who was secretary to the Military Attache in Montevideo
had a friend who was in the office of the Attache in Asuncion,
Paraguay. She asked permission from her employer to travel with
our plane to visit in Paraguay. He assented, and we had a lady
passenger. Our passenger was given a flight suit, the bulky
leather sheepskin lined suits we all wore to keep warm. The
front of the suits have a zipper to close them up.
after leaving our viewing of the Falls, we noted the young lady
nervously glancing around the airplane. After some time she
blurted out, "When you gotta go, what do you do?" Those bombers
have a unique device consisting of a funnel of rubber about
six inches in length and two inches wide at the larger end connected
to a rubber tube running out the side of the aircraft. It is
appropriately designated, the "relief tube." One of the officers
pointed out and said, "That's it!" She had a horrified look
on her face for a moment and then said, "That damn thing was
never built for me." Whereupon one of the officers pointedly
carried a waxed box in which we had had sandwiches, some newspapers,
and a long cord to the rear of the plane, and then we all went
forward and spent the next twenty minutes standing at the rear
of the cockpit and looking forward. At the end of that period
we looked to the rear and saw our passenger zipping her flight
suit and wearing a satisfied look on her face. There was a neatly
wrapped package on the deck of the plane.
we landed on the strip at Asuncion, Paraguay, we had an accident
which caused serious damage to our ship. Our brakes failed due
to a leakage of hydraulic fluid near the end of the runway and
to avoid hitting a deep ditch the pilot executed a ground loop.
That means that he swung the ship 180 degrees to head back from
the direction we had been going. Our speed was considerable,
and, for a moment, everybody in the plane was stunned and all
the baggage and other equipment was a huge jumble. When we recovered
from the shock and left the plane, we could see that our landing
gear was badly damaged. The plane not only could not be flown,
but it could not even be taxied. The required spare parts needed
had to be flown down from the United States and our plane would
be tied up at Asuncion for months. While waiting for instructions,
I completed my assignment by collecting the charting material
from the Paraguayan government and then returned to Rio on a
most exquisite lace was made in Paraguay. The material used
to make the lace was so fine, it was almost like cobweb. Captain
DuBois, an officer of mine who accompanied us, purchased a great
deal of it apparently for presents in the United States and
possibly for resale. He talked me into buying some, and I did
so; but we have never had much use for it. It lies packed away
in a chest. However, two of the articles I bought were mantillas,
one black and one white. Marian made some use of them.
were told that fine lace was mostly made by young children.
They were started at the work at a very early age, and, by the
time they were in their late teens, their eyes had become so
strained that they were forced to cease the lace work. That
is also said to be true of the "pina cloth" (pineapple fiber
cloth) embroidery which is done in the Philippines.
Rio Grande Do Sul - Sao Paulo
had some business in Rio Grande de Sul, the southernmost province
of Brazil. We found that we had to take great care of our associations
there. Many of the inhabitants were of German origin, and the
place was a hotbed of German spies. The Germans there had organized
a glider club to which many prominent Brazilians belonged, and
I am sure that much information of value was gleaned by the
Germans through that association.
trip to Sao Paulo was also made. The city of Sao Paulo is the
Chicago of Brazil, a fine industrial city. While I was in the
hotel in Rio, a family from Sao Paulo was at the same hotel
spending an extended vacation. I became very friendly with them.
They spoke some English and helped me with my Portuguese. The
same day I reached Sao Paulo, I encountered two members of the
family, a young daughter and an aunt on the street and they
exclaimed, "You have come to Sao Paulo and have not come to
visit us!" When I explained that we had just arrived, they asked
when I could come to dinner at their home and, finding I was
free that evening, insisted on my having dinner that night.
I did so and also met a young uncle whom I saw a number of times.
He entertained me with stories about a brief revolution which
had occurred a number of years before. He pointed out to me
where he had been firing from behind some barricades and even
pointed out a few bullet holes in some buildings. He made one
remark over and over. It was, "It was a beautiful fight!"
was very scarce in Brazil. Most of the automobiles had been
converted to using a burner which developed charcoal gas and
these strange cars were called "gasogenias". All of the converters
were custom-made, and it seemed that no two were alike. It was
a cumbersome device, sometimes mounted on the front of the car
and sometimes on the rear. The process of starting the car took
some time. The burner had to be lit and some charcoal gas collected
to start the car, after which it would run as long as the charcoal
burned. Brazilian army trucks were fitted with both gasogenias
and gasoline tanks with carburetors capable of adjusting to
fit either gas and a switch to change from one fuel to another.
This was of considerable value out in the country. When a truck
ran out of fuel, they could stop, make a supply of charcoal,
and continue on their way. The acceleration of the gasogenia
was very poor, and they had low power and speed.
The Bonde and the Opera Bonde
had a good street car system, and, on account of the gasoline
shortage, the street cars were used a great deal. They were
always spoken of as the "bonde", and I learned that they had
acquired that name when the transportation system was originally
installed because they floated bonds to finance the system.
were seldom used to go to the opera. Instead, there were street
cars known as the "opera bondes." They differed from the regular
bonde only in that they had white seat covers over all the seats
to protect the gowns of the ladies. It was an unusual sight
to see those street cars filled with gentlemen in full evening
dress and silk toppers and ladies in elaborate evening gowns.
one occasion I went to the opera to see Madame Butterfly. Having
a uniform to wear, I was appropriately dressed for the opera
bonde. I took a young lady from our embassy who had been especially
kind to us.
had met her in an unusual manner. Once, I was seated in a cocktail
lounge near my hotel and another couple was seated nearby. I
had met the gentleman, and he started to introduce the young
lady. She surprised me by saying, "I know who he is. His name
is Col. Aslakson. He was born in Park River, North Dakota, in
1896. His mother's maiden name was Minnesota Ella Ingmundsen."
As you can imagine, that floored me. It developed that she had
worked with the passports of the members of my party and so
had remembered some of the details.
was a strange and gruesome opera. The Brazilians are realists,
and, when the final scene arrived and Butterfly stabbed herself,
I think a rubber balloon filled with red liquid had been concealed
under her gown. A huge spurt of "blood" spurted out like it
was coming from a hose and made a pool all over the front of
The Honesty of Brazilians
several occasions I was struck by the honesty of the Brazilians.
On one occasion in Rio, I was returning to my hotel from the
city and in some way I dropped my bill fold. The loss was more
than a monetary loss for me. In addition to the money of which
there was a considerable amount, all my identification cards
were in the bill fold. However, that same day I received a call
from our embassy that the bill fold had been turned in there.
They did not even obtain the name of the person who brought
it in to the embassy, so I could not reward anyone.
another occasion, I saw a small boy who appeared to be about
seven years old weeping at a corner of a building. As I approached,
he tried to avoid me by turning the corner. However I asked
him what the cause of his grief was, and he said, "Perdio mi
boleta." ("I lost my pocketbook.") I tried to get him to tell
me what the amount of money was and reluctantly he said, "Vinte
Milreis." Twenty milreis was the small sum of $1 which apparently
was a serious loss to him. When I tried to give him twenty milreis,
it took considerable time to get him to accept it. I feel sure
that he was not putting on an act.
Field Trip in Western Brazil
field trip was made into the western part of Brazil. We were
assigned a Brazilian Army truck and driver. Our first stop for
an observation was in the province of Marilha. There we made
an astronomic observation in the city square and attracted considerable
attention. The crowd around us was often so dense that we had
considerable trouble in functioning. The following morning as
we were about to depart and had reloaded our truck, the mayor
and a delegation of the city officers came up to me and kept
urging me to delay our departure. I was puzzled for a time,
but finally a man came up to the truck wheeling a 100-pound
sack of raw coffee in a wheelbarrow. Then we recalled that the
previous evening in talking to the mayor, we had mentioned that
we understood that the finest coffee in Brazil was grown in
Marilha. Nothing would do, but we must accept a gift of that
coffee. When we returned to Rio, we gave the coffee to the Brazilian
observed two more stations in the province of Marilha and then
parted with our truck. We traveled by train to the western province
of Campo Grande, a wide-open ranching country much like our
the Army once more, we requested a truck for several stations
east of Campo Grande. They looked surprised and called attention
to the fact that all the stations were along the railroad. I
explained that the train schedules were such that it would take
us too long to establish all those stations and was immediately
told that that would pose no difficulty. They would provide
us railroad transportation to fit our schedule. That is exactly
what they did. I was given a private railroad car for my party.
There was a stateroom at one end for me to occupy. There were
berths in the car for all the other members of the party. We
were told that the food along the railroad in the places we
stopped would be poor, so we should take our chuck box and cook
stove with us and cook our meals in the car. As to our schedule,
we were told to inform the conductor or the train engineer at
which town we wished to stop. There we would have our car placed
on a siding. Then we were to contact the station agent and tell
him what town we wanted to be located next. [Editor's note:
this refers to determining the latitude and longitude of a town
for mapping purposes.] He would then wire the railroad officials
who would arrange to have an engine hook up to our car some
time during the day or night to take us to the next station.
work was at night, and often we found ourselves at our next
station without knowing just when we had hooked up for we were
asleep, having finished our observations.
became very friendly with that train crew. I rode in the engine
on several occasions and conversed a great deal with the engineer.
He was inordinately proud of that old engine. It was made in
the Baldwin Locomotive works. He seemed to think I should be
proud of it as well.
cannot conceive of similar accommodations being made on any
railroad in the United States.
Campo Grande expedition completed our work in Brazil, and I
was ordered to return to McDill Field in Florida. I was aware
that shortly I was to be given another overseas assignment.
Enroute to India and China
soon learned that China was to be my next assignment. This time
we flew over in B-24's, which were four-engine bombers, and
we felt safer with four power plants. We flew to Recife, Brazil,
without incident, refueled there, and made a night flight across
the Atlantic to the tiny island of Ascension, a British possession
in the middle of the ocean, half way to Africa.
was an air strip on Ascension which has been blasted out of
the top of a hill. The sides of the strip in the center were
vertical rock walls which at some places must have been six
to ten feet high and vertical. A plane certainly had to stay
in the center of that runway. As a matter of fact, one of our
flying boats, a PBY returning from overseas some months later,
struck one of those walls with the wing tip and shaved off some
of the wing. The pilot flew all the way to Brazil with the wing
in that condition, and, when he landed, he claimed he was not
aware that his wing had hit the wall.
navigator on that flight to Ascension was the nervous type who
had never had a long ocean flight previously. He stayed up all
night, continually plotting our position at about fifteen minute
intervals, although he was not using astral navigation because
of cloud cover and dead reckoning positions could be plotted
at longer intervals.
Island has a mountain, probably of volcanic origin, in the center
and a single settlement on the eastern shore in addition to
the few buildings near the air strip. There was almost no vegetation
to be seen anywhere in the part of the island near the base.
However the humor of some of our Air Force personnel was revealed
by a lonely coconut palm which had been flown over from Brazil
and planted in a hole blasted out of the rock near the air field.
Nearby was a prominent sign which read "COCONUT GROVE".
Accra - Kano, Nigeria - Khartoum, Sudan
a days rest at Ascension, we flew to Accra in Guinea on another
night flight. There we refueled and continued, next landing
at Kano, Nigeria. After a days rest, we flew to Khartoum in
the Sudan. We had a good meal there at the base with tasty hamburgers
which we were told were "camelburgers", but, anyway, they tasted
flew on to Aden, Arabia, which is now part of South Yemen. We
spent a day there, and I wandered through the shops which I
found interesting. I also visited the water supply dam west
of the city which was said to have been built during the days
of King Solomon and it certainly looked that old.
next stop was in Oman in eastern Arabia. We spent the night
there and took in a movie at the base. The GI's were greatly
outnumbered at the movie, which was in the open air, by Arabs
who wandered in.
following day we flew to an airfield in eastern Pakistan, refueled,
and then flew to Agra, India, which is close to New Delhi, India.
We spent several days in New Delhi.
was quartered in the Imperial Hotel, the entire hotel having
been taken over by the U.S. Air Forces. The suite of rooms to
which I was assigned was also occupied by Col. Phillip Cochran,
who was the original of the comic strip "Flip Corkin" by Cartoonist
had little to do in New Delhi because, while the Commanding
officer of our group had business there, I did not. I therefore
had time for some sightseeing, and I had one of our jeeps drive
me to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It was still very beautiful.
Although many of the original precious gems had been removed,
they had been replaced with beautiful semi-precious stones and
the structure was most impressive. The grounds were also lovely.
Chasing Flip Corkin All Over India
the morning we were scheduled to leave for Calcutta, I had breakfast
and returned to my room to arrange to have my baggage picked
up and found all my baggage gone. It was very obvious what had
happened. Col. Cochran had left and his crew chief had taken
all my baggage, as well as Cochran's. I hurriedly drove to the
base only to find Col. Cochran's plane disappearing in the distance.
The Operations Officer told me he did not know where Cochran
was headed, because he never landed at the place for which he
obtained his original clearance. Cochran was on a very Hush-Hush
mission which was involved with that famous glider landing in
Burma and always kept his destination secret, making a change
of clearance while in the air.
upshot of the matter was that I was given a B-25 to try to run
down my baggage, and I chased that airplane all over India for
three days. Everywhere I went I told the operation officer my
story and told him to have my baggage removed if Cochran ever
landed there again. On the third day I landed at Agra, and,
lo and behold, a jeep came out to meet my plane. There on that
jeep was my B-4 bag and my musette bag. The only trouble was
that they had been sitting in a pool of oil in the bottom of
Cochran's plane and I had a large laundry problem on my hands.
had to spend a few days in Calcutta before going to China as
our group was to make its base there while I was in China, and
they were also scheduled to fly photographic missions out of
a British base north of Calcutta. The base was guarded by Ghurka
soldiers. They were very military and good soldiers. All carried
that typical curved Ghurka knife which is so often seen in pictures.
While at that base, I had occasion to make several jeep trips
into Calcutta. Every time I drove in, I saw dead Indians lying
beside the road. They had died from various causes but mostly
from starvation. The sight became commonplace there and later
Flying the Hump
a week after we reached Calcutta, we flew the hump into China.
We were in a B-24 which was not pressurized, and only crew members
were provided with oxygen. The flight was mostly at 30,000 feet,
and one member of our party suffered greatly from lack of oxygen.
All of the passengers were somewhat lightheaded.
wind is very strong over The Hump, as it always is south of
Mount Everest, and we had a dense layer of clouds below us.
The strong winds and the lack of visibility below prevented
accurate navigation and was primarily responsible for the loss
of so many airplanes in flying to China and Burma from India.
one time we did catch a glimpse of Mount Everest and saw the
famous "plume of Everest". That gave us an indication of the
velocity and direction of the wind which was welcome to our
were relieved to fail to spot any Japanese fighters on that
flight, although they were seen on many trips across. At last
we were relieved to land at the airfield at Kungming, China,
the base of General Chennault, the Commanding General of the
14th Air Force and the former Commander of the famous Flying
Tigers. The P-40 Fighters of the 14th Air Force still carry
the insignia of the Flying Tigers. Kungming was the capital
of Yunnan province. All fighter missions were flown out of Kungming.
The Bomber missions were flown with B-24's which were based
on a field at Chengkung, about ten miles south of Kungming.
The Airplane Fuel Problem in China
main problem in flying missions from China was insufficient
fuel for the planes. All the gasoline was flown over from India
and was transported over The Hump by the planes that were to
fly the missions. Each B-24 had a bomb tank which was filled
with extra gasoline. They would be filled in India, fly back
to China, dump all the fuel they could spare into barrels, leaving
only enough to return to India. They continued that process
until a sufficient supply had been built up to safely undertake
a mission. Then the refueling flights would be started again.
It was a most inefficient process but was the only method available.
a level area a few miles north of Chengkung, there were thousands
of barrels of gasoline stored in the open. For some obscure
reason, that storage area was never bombed by the Japanese.
The Chinese were said to steal barrels of gasoline from there
from time to time. However we were told that when a bombing
alert by the Japanese was said to be on the way, the Chinese
were seen rolling back hundreds of barrels to that area.
were not used as bombing alerts. Instead, there was what was
known as "one ball", "two ball", and "three ball" alerts. At
numerous places balls were hoisted from poles as the warning.
Little attention was paid to either one ball or two ball alerts,
but at a three ball alert there was plenty of action. Everyone
scurried to his alert post at his assigned air raid center.
The Japanese were stationed just across the border from China
in French Indo-China. No one seemed to know just how that efficient
air raid system operated, but it worked very well.
humorous incident involved the supplies of edibles for both
the Chinese and the Japs. A train ran from Yunnan all the way
to the Jap base in French Indo-China, and it never ceased to
run all through the war. Cooks and mess sergeants from the Americans
and the Chinese rode that train carrying some supplies to the
Japanese and in turn purchased some scarce commodities from
the stores in French Indo-China. It was a strange war.
Kungming is Bombed
had one Jap bombing mission while I was at Kungming. I had been
assigned an alert post about two miles north of the field on
a hill where I had a grandstand view. At three balls we dashed
out there in a jeep. We saw our P-40's take off to intercept
the Japs and saw a number of dog fights. We saw one P-40 shot
down in flames but also saw one of the bombers shot down. From
our post, we saw two bombs land on our runway but did not know
the extent of the damage until we returned. All of our aircraft,
other than the fighters, had taken off except one, a C-47 which
had just come from Chungking to pick up the Xmas mail and dinner
supplies for the troops in Chungking. It had loaded those supplies
but had not yet refueled. Of only two bombs which landed on
that field that day, one was a 200-pound bomb which made a direct
hit on that plane, and it was burned to a crisp.
other bomb was a 2000-pound bomb which landed on the runway
and blew a crater twenty feet deep and about forty feet across
on the runway. That damage was negligible, for by the time we
got back to the field, that crater was swarming with coolies
who were passing up the larger rocks, crushing them, passing
down the crushed rock, and pounding it in place. Within two
hours of our return, that crater was repaired and the spot of
the damage could not be detected. P-40's were landing even before
the repairs were completed because the runway was wide. One
P-40 was so badly damaged that it was a wonder it could fly.
The pilot was wounded, and the canopy was spattered with blood.
As soon as the runway repairs were completed the other planes
returned, some of them from the field at Chengkung where they
had landed earlier.
barracks in Kungming had been built and were maintained by the
Chinese. The Chinese room boys were neat and scrupulously honest.
Any property misplaced, even a billfold with cash, would be
returned when the owner was located. Shortly before Xmas, I
tried to give our room boy a present of some money and he refused.
After explaining our system of giving presents at Xmas time,
he accepted but somewhat reluctantly.
of our airplanes arrived from Calcutta about Xmas time with
mail and presents. One of my young officers opened his packages
and in nearly every one there was a bottle of deodorant. He
said in a plaintive voice, "That shows what your friends think
before Xmas, Major General J.L. Huang, Director General of the
War Area Service Corps of China, invited me to dinner in Kungming.
As a guest, he also had the famous Chinese author and philosopher
Lin Yu Tang. He was world-renowned and a fascinating man. His
English was perfect, and the evening was delightful. Both the
General and Lin Yu Tang autographed my "short snorter" bill,
the latter also using the Chinese characters. I have lost that
bill somewhere and sincerely hope I can locate it some time.
my China stay, we found all Chinese most friendly. We were well-liked,
and it is sad to think how they were turned against us later.
Some Jeeps are Finally Obtained
men had received their assignments and were sitting around idle
as I waited for some jeeps to be flown over The Hump to me.
They failed to arrive in spite of my appeals to the base in
Calcutta. I was unable to start, as the men could not reach
many of the astronomic stations assigned to them except by land
travel, and the jeeps were a necessity to start work. I had
gone over the assignments with the young officers and they were
frothing at the mouth to start work. In desperation, I went
to the Transportation Officer of the 14th Air Force who was
a full Colonel. Telling him my story, I asked him if he could
loan me four jeeps so I could start some of my officers on their
assignments. He listened respectfully and then called his motor
pool officer and told him to provide me with four jeeps. In
gratitude for his cooperation, I presented him with a good bottle
of bourbon and a bottle of Scotch which I had bought in Calcutta.
Failure to Receive Chang Kai Chek Military Passports
more detail was to be completed before my officers were to start
their assignments. We had been told that military passports
signed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai Chek would be required for
the parties to travel safely in China. They had still not been
sent to Kungming, and I was getting worried about that. At last
in desperation, I made an appointment with General Chennault.
I first told him about the difficulty in getting my jeeps and
then about the failure to receive the Chinese passports. After
I finished I said, "What would you do General Chennault?" He
looked me directly in the eye and said, "I would do the same
damn thing that you are going to do!" I took that in the manner
he obviously expected me to take it. Returning to the barracks,
I told my officers, "General Chennault has told me to send you
out without the passports. You can start out on your assignments."
a matter of fact, we would never have finished those assignments
if we had waited for those passports. I was relieved later by
Colonel Doran who completed the project while I undertook his
Brazilian work up the Amazon Valley. After completing that work
and returning to McDill Field in Florida, nearly two years after
I had left China, I received my passport. It was an impressive
document which is framed and hangs on the wall of my office.
It is fifteen inches square, had my picture on it, Chiang Kai
Chek's chop (signature by a stamp three inches across), and
chops of smaller size of some minor officials. It was filled
with Chinese characters which are meaningless to me. However,
the English words, "Lt. Col. Carl I. Aslakson" are typed in
one corner, the only thing I can read on the document.
trips made by the officers were interesting and I would have
enjoyed them myself. One of the parties had to establish a number
of stations along the Burma Road all the way to the Indian Border.
Another traveled north and east into a wild area where he encountered
some bandits and was pinned down for some time by rifle fire.
No one was hurt, and the engagement ended with the bandits withdrawing.
Another trip was west and south into the territory of a War
Lord where the only difficulty, lack of permission, was encountered.
They were detained briefly but allowed to continue. One of the
assignments of that party was to make astronomic observations
along a wild river which was known to be poorly located on existing
charts. And indeed it proved to be badly located for there were
errors of 50 miles in the existing charts.
most interesting assignment was one which required one party
to go up into the edge of Tibet. A long distance at the end
of jeep travel was to be made on foot with Chinese coolies as
packers. There were two officers on that trip including the
enlisted men. One officer, the junior one named Lieut. Wesselhoft,
contracted polio well inside Tibet. They had just completed
their last observations when he became ill and had started back.
The other officer, a Captain, hired some more Chinese, made
a makeshift stretcher, and started carrying Wesselhoft out.
It took five days to reach a remote Air Force weather station
located on a mountain on the trail where there was a radio station.
On the trail it was necessary to stop very frequently to apply
artificial respiration. The weather station sent a radio message
and reported the situation to headquarters in Calcutta. A light
plane, an L-5, was sent in to the weather station. When it arrived,
the back seat was removed so they could get the young officer
into a prone position with his chest
the pilot's right side. Then a strap was fixed across his chest
so that from time to time the pilot could fly the plane with
the left hand while he pumped a handle attached to the strap
to give artificial respiration. When he tried to fly out from
the weather station, he had difficulty getting across a mountain
pass due to the added weight. At last, he made it on the third
try, and from then on it was all down grade to Calcutta. In
Calcutta an iron lung was fabricated from parts available including
jeep parts and he was flown first to Walter Reed Hospital and
later to Hot Springs, Ark. He is alive today and is a prominent
business man in Texas, although he is confined to a wheel chair,
being paralyzed from the waist down.
might wonder how I found out the whole story because much of
it occurred after I returned to the U.S. That in itself is interesting.
One day, while I was attached to the Guided Missile Range in
Florida, I was in Cocoa Beach in a drug store and saw a magazine
named 'True' on a rack and read the feature title on the cover,
which was, "Himalaya Adventure". Puzzled I picked up the magazine
and turned to the story. It was a very well written story of
that adventure, and extremely factual.
strange part of the whole thing was that the Chinese could simply
not understand why Americans spent so much time to save the
life of anyone. The party which went down the Burma Road said
that frequently dying soldiers would be left along the side
of the road to die. Later when I was driving to Chengkung, fifteen
miles south of Kungming, there was a body lying alongside the
road. A Chinese had fallen from the roof of a bus where often
passengers rode when there was no room inside. He had landed
on his head and broken open the top of his skull. His hat filled
with brains was lying alongside the body. That body lay there
for four days before it was moved. It seems that any Chinese
who picked up the body was responsible for the burial. There
was a certain expense involved in a burial, and no one wanted
to incur the cost. At the end of four days, the Chinese mayor
of a small settlement north of Chengkung accepted the responsibility
and assumed the cost of burial.
Chungking and Beipei
had to make one trip into Chungking while I was at Kungming
in an effort to expedite the Chiang Kai Chek military passports.
The stop there was interesting, as I was invited to a Chinese
opera and later to a ball. The opera consisted of a bare stage
with no scenery but occasional props such as a chair or table.
When these were needed they would be brought on by two stage
hands who remained at the edge of the stage sitting in chairs
at all times. The only "music" was a gong on which an incessant
hammering was kept up throughout the entire show.
the actors were dolled up in outlandish costumes. The costumes
and the opera itself are said to be very old and performed exactly
the same for more than 1000 years. The lines were "sung" in
a strange singsong voice. All during the opera, vendors hawked
warm salted sunflower seeds to the audience. They were greasy,
and from time to time the vendors would toss warm moist wash-rags
to the audience, always handling them with chop sticks. They
would be tossed back to the vendors after use. The audience
paid little attention to the opera. They had no doubt seen it
many times before.
the opera, we were all invited to a ball for the upper crust.
Most of those attending were of high rank. I was struck by the
beauty of many of the women. I danced few dances, but on one
occasion, I danced with a tall and striking Chinese girl who
spoke perfect English. When I asked her where she learned her
English she replied, "At the University of Michigan."
had to make a jeep trip to Beipei, a university town about thirty
miles north of Chungking. My assignment was to discuss some
of the recent mapping done by the Chinese for incorporation
in our air charts. My business was with an engineer who also
was a University professor. I had been given a case of canned
milk which was scarce in China to give to him as it was known
that he had a small baby. He seemed to appreciate it and thanked
I left Chungking, I was invited to a dinner with a number of
Chinese generals. There were some strange dishes which were
delicious, but I thought it better not to know what I was eating.
The Chinese gave toasts all through the meal. The liquor with
which they made the toasts was a sort of wine or distilled drink
made from oranges and was very strong. It is the custom to say
GAMBEY when a toast is made and then toss off the entire glass
which holds about one ounce. The glass is then immediately filled
again. It is supposed to be rude not to toss off the entire
glass when they GAMBEY, but I simply could not do it and explained
that I had an ulcer. A number of the guests, as well as some
hosts, were practically under the table at the end of the dinner.
having been completed, I flew back to Kungming on the next flight
of the C-47 on which I had come over. The weather was clear
for a change. The day we had arrived, it was overcast with low
clouds, and we came mighty close to some telephone lines on
landing. The pilot seemed to think that it was routine to dodge
our return trip, we had Paulette Goddard and some other girls
who had been entertaining the Americans and Chinese in Chungking.
They were all wearing leather sheepskin flight suits loaned
to them by the Air Force and had no make-up. They were not very
spent the last part of our trip in Chengkung, the field south
of Kungming where the B-24 bomber group was stationed. For some
reason, it was never bombed by the Japanese while I was there.
quarters were somewhat the same as those in Kungming. They were
built and maintained by the Chinese. Chinese boys kept the place
clean at all times. They also kept our stove well supplied with
coal, which was needed as the weather varied from cool to cold.
evening the boys were enjoying some partying with Chinese gin
which was made from oranges. I don't know why it was called
gin for it was probably almost all alcohol with no flavor whatever.
We had GI sleeping bags which were narrower at the foot than
at the head. They zipped up from the foot to the head. On this
particular night one of the young officers passed out and the
others put him in his sleeping bag head first, that is with
his head at the narrow bottom. After a time he came to and tried
to reach for the zipper but it was at the other end and he could
not reach it. As a result, it looked like a six foot caterpillar
squirming about the floor for a while, until the boys took pity
on him and opened the zipper.
more incident occurred at Chengkung which is in the X category,
and I hesitate about telling it. Our latrines were outside ones
made by the Chinese who never wasted anything. As a result all
the latrines had the pits lines with concrete so they could
dip them out from time to time to put the fertilizer on their
fields. When they were emptied, one man would stand below in
refuse up to his knees and shovel the material into buckets
which would then be passed up to another who would pour it into
a "honey cart", as it was called, to be carried out to the fields.
Odor was kept down by the use of lime which also was good for
one occasion I was near the latrine while it was being emptied
and heard the Chinese in the pit stringing together a lot of
Chinese words, liberally sprinkled with American swear words
which to foreigners always seem to be more effective than the
cuss words in their own language. I became curious and asked
what all the cussing was about. The man in the pit exclaimed,
"Merican s--- no good! Too much papah!"
my stay at Chengkung, one of the Japanese planes which had been
down contained a lot of 1/1,000,000 air charts with astronomic
observations. This looked like a great find until our men started
to try using them. It was then found that the Japs had deliberately
made charts with large errors and allowed them to be captured
simply to try to confuse the Americans.
Return to the United States
as all my astronomic parties were in the field, I was ordered
to return to the United States temporarily to give a status
report. We flew over the same route over which I had first entered
China via "The Hump", India, Arabia all the African air fields,
Ascension Id., Recife, and Belem, South America, and then we
were supposed to fly directly from Belem, Brazil to McDill Field,
Florida. However, on the last leg across the Gulf of Mexico,
we developed engine trouble. I believe they could have made
it on three engines but the plane crew wanted to land in Puerto
Rico at Ramey Air Force base. They got clearance by radio to
land at Ramey and changed course. The B-24's crossing the Atlantic
always carried a large bomb bay tank to carry extra gasoline,
if needed. The tank was made to be jettisoned, if it became
necessary. By opening the bomb bay doors and pulling a certain
pull cord all connections to the airplane were disconnected
and the tank would drop through the bomb bay doors. The crew
had always been curious as to how the procedure worked, and
now they had an excuse to drop the tank to lessen the load.
They went through the procedure, and the tank dropped but the
results were unexpected. For the entire fuselage was filled
with a heavy gasoline vapor like a fog. If a single spark had
occurred at that moment, we would have blown up like a bomb.
Fortunately, it cleared very quickly and we all breathed a sigh
the air, as we were landing, we saw a hillside filled with airmen
and realized that a USO show was about to begin. We were assigned
fine quarters not far from the rear of the stage and we went
down at once to see the show. It was the Bob Hope show with
Francis Langford and a lot of others. In a few minutes, I had
Bob Hope and all the others autograph my "short snorter bill".
Recently, I have tried to find them but they are lost, temporarily,
at least. I hope it is not permanent for I had one autograph
I prize highly. It was that of the Chinese author and philosopher,
Lin Yu Tang.
The Amazon Valley
I had heard from Doran who had been sent to take over some astronomic
parties in the Amazon Valley. He had considered me lucky to
have landed the China job. On the other hand, I had never been
in the upper Amazon, so I rigged up a deal whereby I took over
his parties which were based at Manaus, Brazil. That city is
at the confluence of the Rio Amazona and the Rio Negro which
is a huge river, and the flow at the confluence is tremendous.
Manaus is a busy port for ocean vessels. Because of the extreme
changes in the depth of the water during the year all the docks
at Manaus are floating docks.
the early days of the rubber boom, most of the rubber sold came
from the wild rubber trees of the Amazon jungle. At that time
Manaus was very wealthy. A great opera house was built and the
famous opera stars of that era, such as Caruso, Tetrazinni,
and Melba sang there. The rubber plantations were started in
Liberia and British North Borneo, and the bottom fell out of
the economy. That grand opera still is a place the people of
Manaus point to with pride, yet it is seldom used. During my
few months stay in Manaus, as I recall it, the only show given
there was that of a Peruvian magician. Previous to my assuming
charge of the parties at Manaus, I made a short trip to Rio
de Janeiro to be briefed by the Brazilian officials. In a joint
conference with American officials some time previously, the
approximate site of the control points had been selected. One
of these was on a branch of the Rio Negro, that had its source
up near the Venezuelan border. It was known that there was a
wandering tribe of Indians, who inhabited the area, who were
often hostile. One point was emphasized. If by any chance some
of these Indians were encountered, under no circumstances should
an attempt be made to photograph them. They believed that a
photograph captured their soul.
I reached Manaus, I found that Doran had established the entire
party on the second floor apartment of a nice apartment building.
They subsisted largely on C-Rations supplemented by occasional
purchases of vegetables in the markets. The quarters were comfortable.
It was fully furnished, and I had a fine large bedroom for myself.
The living room was very large and proved to be a great help,
as I could lay out the photographs in a sort of mosaic on the
floor to assist in selecting the final site of the astronomic
stations to be observed. For transportation, I had a PBY float
plane which was seldom used because too many of the stations
were on river branches too small for that large plane. My other
plane was a Grunman Widgeon, a smaller and more maneuverable
float plane. That was the plane most often used. A few stations
were at points which could only be reached by launches or canoes.
One such station was on the river branch inhabited by the dangerous
Indians. I chose what I considered the most mature of my officers
to make that expedition. He hired two natives who lived at a
small plantation down the river to paddle them up the river
by canoe. I briefed him most carefully about the picture taking,
but, apparently, it did no good. While he was setting up his
astrolabe, some of the jungle Indians approached. All we know
about the incident came from a single member of the party who
escaped. He said that as soon as the Indians saw the camera
pointed at them the arrows began to fly. The enlisted man who
escaped was at the edge of the water, and was an excellent swimmer.
He dove into the river and swam under water down stream, emerging
from time to time only to catch his breath. Aided by a strong
current he swam several miles downstream before emerging. He
then walked many miles, finally arriving at a native's house.
It was near where the Grunman had dropped the party, and he
remained there until the Grunman returned at an appointed time
several days later to pick up the party. An armed party was
sent in later. They recovered the bodies and the astrolabe,
and returned without incident. The remarkable fact about the
enlisted man's swim was that the stream was filled with piranhas,
the small fish which eat flesh and can strip a carcass to the
bone in a few minutes.
the men returned from their field assignments with the computed
astronomic position, I would lay out my photos on the floor
and try to plot the river systems on the 1/1,000,000 air chart
of the area. I found that the main rivers, the Rio Negro, Rio
Branca, Amazona, and Solamoes, were reasonably well located
but all other streams were grossly in error. For example, the
area between the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes (pronounced
Salamones) had a rather large river system which ran east and
west between the Negro and the Solimoes, whereas the printed
chart showed no such system but instead a large number of small
streams running north or south and emptying into the above streams
as if a ridge lay in the area between the main streams. I was
able to plot the new river systems on the 1/1,000,000 air chart
in blue pencil, continually revising it as new astronomic information
came in. At the conclusion of the work, we had a revised air
chart which we could use to fly by.
was a river entering into the Amazon from the north, which had
its source near the Dutch Guiana border. An astronomic position
was desired on that river. In using the astrolabe, it is first
necessary to have an approximate longitude. This can usually
be obtained from existing charts with sufficient accuracy. When
the stars come into view, they will come in early or late depending
on the accuracy of the assumed position. Thus, starting the
observation may require a revision of the star list which has
been made out in advance. Usually the assumed position is accurate
enough so that only one revision of times need be made. However,
in the case of the above station two nights were spent and none
of the stars came into view at the times they were supposed
to. On the third day, the officer in charge was talking to a
native who had a house near by and the conversation got around
to a large pig owned by the native. The native told him that
the pig came from the same litter as one his brother owned farther
down the river. When the name of the river came up, it was different
than the one the party thought they were on. It turned out that
the river they sought was sixty miles to the east of the river
on which they were making the observation. Thus, in their report,
they stated that they learned their approximate position with
the heip of two pigs. The air chart had the river they sought
sixty miles or one degree of longitude out of position.
was one more interesting incident during my stay on the Amazon
River. One party chief returned with the information that there
was soft coal found near the station he had just completed.
This was most surprising news, for the geology of the area seemed
to preclude the finding of coal there. A second station he had
located on the Rio Solimoes had a supply of mica. We were always
supposed to report information of that type, so his report went
in to Rio de Janeiro just the way he had reported. A few weeks
later, we were informed that a party of American and Brazilian
officers were coming over to investigate the report of coal
and mica. When they arrived, they had a Brazilian civilian geologist
with them. Both stations were near the point where the PBY would
land in the river. We first flew out to the station where coal
was reported. There was a native's house there on a high point.
He rowed out to the plane, and we went ashore. The first sight
that met our eyes was a fire of soft coal going near the house.
Both the Brazilians and American officers were most enthusiastic.
They would be able to report a remarkable coal find in the upper
part of the river where none was expected! The geologist was
more cagey. He questioned the native for some time and found
out the facts. During the rubber boom days, a large coal burning
launch used to ply up and down the river with cargoes of rubber
from the jungle. She often carried an extra cargo of coal for
use at some of the worker's areas upstream. That launch had
hit a rock and damaged the hull, and, in attempting to beach
her, it had sunk. Many years later coal had been found on the
bottom, and this native had been diving for it to burn.
ended the coal story, but we went on to the site of the mica
find. The mica was there all right but much more exploration
was needed to assess the find.
the way out, the Brazilians were most profuse in their thanks
for the report and there was talk of the decoration "Crucero
do Sol" (the southern cross). I noticed there was no mention
of it on the return trip.
flight over the jungle was most fascinating. Most of it was
water which showed glistening through the trees for it was high
water time. From time to time, there would be some high knolls
and invariably there would be a native hut there. Occasionally
we would fly over a flat place of a few acres which was above
water. Then we would often see jungle animals dart for cover
as we were flying at an altitude of only a few hundred feet.
It was clear how the rubber plantations in other parts of the
world took away the rubber business of Brazil. The scattered
rubber trees were too inaccessible in the Amazon valley.
found a retired school teacher in Manaus whom I engaged to teach
me some Portuguese. She spoke English well, and I was getting
along fine when I received orders to turn the party over to
a Captain in my party to complete the few stations still required.
I was relieved, for the tedious work of closing out a project
was left to him.
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