May 19, 2001
Doc Richards was our head company doctor during the 1946-1949 period our company was in Shanghai. He had a couple of Chinese doctors as assistants at times. "Doc Rich" had gone out to China in 1941 with the Flying Tigers. At our reunion with the Tigers, Doc and Christy's wife danced up a storm. Having worked together almost 50 years previously, they really enjoyed those reunions. A number of us pilots and mechanics had come out together on either the first or second trip that Pan American made with their new triple tailed Constellations. Doc. Got us together in a room in the Palace Hotel in Shanghai and gave us a little lecture on the do's and don'ts of how to stay healthy in Shanghai. The local girls came in for a little attention and there were things western doctors didn't know how to cure. Then he got onto booze. At a price of about $100US a quart for Scotch or Bourbon, you had very little chance of getting what you thought you were buying. Don't chance it. Get Vodka. At about 90¢ for a 2 liter bottle, it was too cheap to alter. Good vodka and canned grapefruit juice became a standard drink. Quite palatable. Doc hauled us pilots in every 3 months for booster shots of almost every disease you could imagine. You name it and we got a shot for it. At our reunions, especially the ones at Ojai, Doc had a little acetylene saluting cannon that he delighted in firing just about the time you had a full glass of delicious scotch and spill it all over. When things wrapped up in China, Doc came to Southern California and established his practice. Seems to me it was Costa Mesa or thereabouts. He passed away within the past three or four years. A grand guy, old Doc Rich.
"Toad" Morgan's name was O. Lee Morgan. He was of medium seniority and I rode a couple of flights with him while I was checking out as Captain. He was a real nice guy, and I liked him a lot. He had flown on the Hump. We junior birdmen came after the Japanese were sent home, so our seniority was minimum. A lot of pilots played poker and I think Toad was one of the less skillful. Not being a poker player, I pass on only reputations and scuttlebutt. Red Holmes was reputed to be the ace. He drove around Shanghai in his Cadillac and collected the pilots for his poker games. When his wife was going to have a baby, he rented the hospital room three days before and had it painted and decorated for her. He appropriated his beautiful apartment by going into it and chasing out the German owner - backed up by a dozen Tommy gun wielding Shanghai Police, he paid. He was one of the early Hump pilots. -Christy Hanks can give you a good run down on Red.
Tom Nowling was of medium seniority and just one of the boys. He lived downtown in the Hamilton House where a lot of the CNAC people lived. He had a real cute little wife who divorced him while we were there in Shanghai. I haven't any idea where almost any of the pilots hailed from in the USA. We didn't get real chummy with each other. This wasn't like a military squadron even if some of our flights looked like it.
Harvey Mahrt was a real phlegmatic type. He sat over in that right seat of a C-47 and exhibited an attitude that he didn't care much whether school kept or not. On the other hand, riding back and forth over that radio beacon dozens of times a day while each of us shot instrument approaches into Shanghai would have drive him up a wall if he had any kind of enthusiasm about his flying. His comments were usually pretty brief, "You'd do better, if you made that procedure turn a little longer" or "You let it drift off a little to the right after you passed the low cone". He insisted that we get it perfect, and that was good because we tended to get a little sloppy as much flying as we were doing. He was a good pilot and had lots of seniority, but I understand he couldn't fly the line. I don't know why, because you just sit there and let the plane grind away until you get where you're going then go through a little landing procedure; Engines to full fuel tanks, Props low pitch, Auto Rich Mixture, Gear Down, Flaps to half, Deicer boots off, Pilot heat off, Everybody seat belts, permission to land from Tower, slow it down, bring it down, over the fence and you're on. Stay away from the edges of the runway because the weight of the C-46 frequently broke through the thin concrete, which was sufficient for the Japanese who built the strips.
Jack Folty became a very good friend of mine when his wife, my wife and another pilot's wife came out to Shanghai together on the delivery flight of one of our six DC-4's. Since our wives became friends, Jack and I saw each other frequently. Several years later when we ran into each other in Los Angeles, we re-established our friendships. Jack was a Douglas Technical Representative on the A-20 bombers in the 7th Air Force in New Guinea. Besides being an excellent hammer and wrench mechanic, he was a good supervisor and got along wonderfully with our Chinese mechanics. All the work on our planes was done by the Chinese mechanics (and it was darned good), but the top supervision was done by about a dozen top grade extremely experienced American mechanics. In Los Angeles, in the 70's, 80's and 90's Jack and I got together over a Scotch on the rocks occasionally. He passed away in 1999 at about 86 or 87.
You're doing a great job, Tom, and I'll try to get you some more stuff in the near future. Jerry Shrawder should have a lot of rosters of our CNAC group going way back hopefully from Pappy Quinn, our self-appointed secretary for many years. It would give hometowns and things like that.
Best Regards and keep up the good work.