MARCH 11, 1943
SOMEWHERE OVER THE HUMP, SOUTH OF PIMAW PASS
From Fletcher Hank's, "WHEN AND HOW THE CNAC CRASHES HAPPENED ON THE HUMP AND ITS ENVIRONS DURING WWII" (hand-dated 5/4/02)
Jim Fox, 3/11/43, C-53 #53. All 3 killed. Co-pilot Thom (Chinese) Wong radio operator (Chinese). The Japanese had recently established a garrison at Pimaw Pass and had built a small pillbox about eight feet wide, on the north side of the pass, facing south approximately fifty feet above the bottom of the V. It was threatening to the CNAC planes that regularly flew through the pass on the direct route between Dinjan and Kunming, at that altitude. It wasn't unusual to have three or four CNAC planes flying in tandem through the pass two hundred feet apart. The pilots were looking for another pass that would be safer from Jap guns. Orin Welsh (Welch), at breakfast in Kunming, March 11, 1943, told the other three captains, who would fly that route that morning, about the pass that he had found the day before, only four miles south of Pimaw Pass and that he was planning on using it this morning, weather permitting. That pass was even lower that Pimaw Pass. They all agreed to follow him. The weather wasn't the best with intermittent snow, turbulence and gale force winds pouring through the pass from Burma. Orin led the group; Charlie Sharkey was close behind him. Jim Fox was behind Charlie and fifty feet lower and Pete Goutiere was to the right of Jim and 100 feet higher than Jim. Orin and Charlie experienced a tremendous down draft as the wind was being drafted down to the Salween River, a mile below. They went to emergency power and squeezed through the pass into Burma. Pete, sitting in the left seat and above him watched him struggle. Jim started blowing the snow off the top of the trees, then cutting the leaves out of the top of the trees and finally plowing into the trees in a cloud of snow. When Pete saw Jim loosing the battle with the down-draft, he decided to do a quick 180 degree turn. Pete escaped crashing by quick-thinking but his left wing almost hooked into the mountain in his turn. Pete flew south over the Salween Valley to a safe altitude and then set a course to Dinjin on instruments with icing at 13,000 feet.
Fox's crash was a soft landing as he was in maximum climb and probably only flying an indicated 75 miles per hour with a head wind of 60 miles an hour or more as he started clipping the tree tops and finally settling to the ground. Since he was drawing full power, when the propellers hit the ground or rocks, they broke loose and the left one cut the cockpit loose from the fuselage, just behind the pilots' seats and forward of the astrodome. When Pete landed, he reported to Woodie, Operations Manager at Dinjan, that he considered it a fatal crash. A Jap fort or observation post was two miles north of the crash, on the ridge. We have not heard from any of the crew. The Japanese held the area north to Pimaw Pass. The crew could have been prisoners of war. Source: "Wings Over Asia" and "Himalayan Rouge" by Pete Goutiere.