1st AIR CARGO RESUPPLY SQUADRON



This is the Saga of the 1st ACRS, as remembered by Tom Egleston, Sgt., Army Air Corps:

For me, it all started when I was drafted during my senior year in high school in Nov. 1943. Induction at Camp Blanding, (Starke) Fla., washing out of flight school in Miami Beach because of poor depth perception and being subjected to such hardships as daily PT on the sands of Miami Beach, sitting in the shade of palm trees field stripping the carbine and the 45 automatic and pulling guard duty at night on the sidewalk in front of the New Yorker Hotel watching the world pass by. I endured such harsh treatment until March of 1944 when they realized I should be somewhere else and sent me to Westover Field, Mass. There, as a carpenter, because I had helped to build Drew Field during two summers in Tampa, Fla., I spent three months building targets on Quabbin Reservoir and manning fire-boats to douse the fires started by errant practice bombs dropped by high altitude B-24s from the base. I even spent a week fighting these fires in the mountains around the reservoir carrying coils of fire hose that were attached to portable pumps placed beside mountain streams. When Quabbin Reservoir was filled the tops of several hills were above the waterline. We placed bright yellow pyramid targets on these islands which were supposed to be what the bombardiers were aiming for but I remember one morning when a string of practice bombs peppered the main street of a little town several miles away.

I remember that a Sergeant in my barracks at Westover awoke on the morning of June 4 and announced that he had dreamed the Allies would launch an invasion of France the next day. We said "Yeah, right, you would know". Then, lo and behold, D-Day was launched on June 6 with a later explanation that the weather had been too severe for it to start, as scheduled, on the 5th. A couple weeks later I was assigned to 'detached duty' with three other GIs, with the U. S. Coast Guard on Monomoy Point out on Cape Cod, Mass. Our assignment was to repair a bullseye type high altitude bombing target used to train B-24 crews out of Westover Field. At least there was no place out there to start a fire. This was an early morning until 9 AM job as the 100 lb. practice bombs started dropping at that time. The Coast Guard Station was located on the lower tip of a 10 mile sandbar south of the town of Monomoy. The target was 5 miles north, in the middle of the sand bar, and the town was another 5 miles north of that. Well, not being dummies, when the bombing were due we headed for town, not for the CG station. That meant having to spend the rest of the day getting a mohogany tan at the local pub. Talk about rough duty. Then in the evening things really picked up. We would dig quahogs on the beach for the CG French Chef to make chowder of, enjoy his other culinary delights, sit on the beach looking at the lights of Nantucket Island across the Sound or watch the Coast Guardsmen walking beach patrol and practicing life-saving tactics with their rescue boats. When things got too tame we would join them for a rousing card game of crazy eights. But I digress too much, which is easy to do when you're reminiscing. Well, I was just about settled into this rigorous routine when, in about two weeks, I was recalled to Westover Field. I assumed they were going to send me to a rest camp because of the demanding schedule I had been experiencing. As luck would have it my orders got crossed up and I ended up at Herbert Smart Airport, just outside of Macon, GA, where the 1st ACRS was forming. There we studied, with slide rule even, loading and tying down cargo in C-47s, paying particular attention not to overload each cargo zone. (You can figure out what happened to that training when we got to Burma). From there moved to Camp McCall, North Carolina where we took glider training and then on Fort Benning, Georgia for parachute packing and jump school. Somewhere along the way the other facets of our future jobs such as warehousing and motor pool training were absorbed. With our lessons learned we went by rail to Fort Wayne, Indiana and were outfitted with Arctic clothing. We should have known then that we were headed for the tropics but we were na´ve. Packing up from there we were again on a train. This time we were headed for, of all places, Miami, Florida. On 31 October 1944 our train was in the Union Station at Jacksonville (my family had moved there by then) waiting for hours to see which way a hurricane, that was approaching Miami, was going to go. It was hard being confined to a troop train in my home town and not able to even call my family.

We reached Miami and the Floridan Hotel on Biscayne Bay after averting the hurricane and there turned in our heavies for lighter clothing, picked up our orders, and started being placed on fly out postings for each day. We were apparently not on high priority because our personnel were used to fill empty spaces on planes out of Opa Locka airport. Our route of flght was Miami to Natal, Brazil, to Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic, to Accra on the Gold Coast of Africa,to Khartoum in Anglo Egyptian Sudan, to Aden, then on to Karachi and Ledo in India. I say we were not high on the list because I spent 5 days each in Natal, Accra and Khartoum waiting for air transportation. Some of us would fly every few days. It took me 3 full weeks in transit.

In Natal it was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I remember I bought a pair of handmade leather boots. In Accra there was sailing, arranged and accompanied by the Red Cross ladies. There was a lot of construction going on. Something I found strange was what they were using for forms for pouring concrete. Two x ten inch planks of mahogany. Seems that was the most plentiful wood they had. Like pine here at home. In Khartoum we had a treat. For a shilling a day we could rent an Arabian horse and ride the countryside. Of course I over did it. Could hardly walk the next day. Another thing I remember there was the mess hall. Boy!!! No standing in line, white clothed tables for four, small native waiters dressed in white with a menu for you and, of all things ice cream. I could have stayed there for the duration. But, on to India.

Once in Ledo we outfitted for the convoy over the mountainous area to Warazup. Starting before dawn we were to reach Warazup by afternoon in time to rig our English tents for our first night in Burma. It didn't happen that way. On some of the narrowest road the lead 6x6 truck broke down. It was too dangerous to try passing so the whole outfit was halted until repairs could be made. Further up the road our 'scouts' encountered a GI guarding a 6x6 that had gotten too close to the edge and had gone over and was wedged between two trees 25 or so yards down. More investigation revealed it to be loaded with the large cans of Vienna Sausage. It didn't take long for our Capt. George Hall to convince that GI to relinquish control of his charge. I ate so many Vienna Sausage that to this day I can't stand the sight of them.

Back on the road we arrived in Warazup about dusk and with the aid of headlights were managing to get our tents up when Tokyo Rose comes on the radio with some good 'back home' music and announces, "Welcome to Burma, 1st Air Cargo Resupply Squadron". Needless to say we did not sleep easy that night. Several nights later a lone plane dropped some anti-personnel bombs in the area but hurt no one. We soon set about seeing to the erection our drive through warehouses using the natives' skills and preparing for the supplies that were on the way.

We did all of our own parachute rigging, cargo handling, packing and strapping. Once we were operational (my first flight was 2 March 1945) the trucks would be driven through a warehouse and take on the waiting cargo which was ready to be flown and dropped. At the Warazup flight line the C-47s were loaded and with the three Flight Traffic Clerks, 'kickers', aboard we would take off for a 3 to 4 hour round trip flight in the Katha, Schwebo, Bhamo area to the south of us. We would be joined there by planes from other units, presumably the Combat Cargo squadrons. Flying in a large circular pattern we would make 6 to 8 passes, according to the type of cargo on board. We would stack the supplies in the doorway and wait for the pilot to give us a hand signal to "kick" the load out. With a kicker on each side of the stack, one hand on the supplies and the other hand holding onto the doorside handrail, and with the third man at the rear of the pile to assist with the heave-ho we would expel the load. No one knows how many times the third man came close to going out with the supplies. Of course, all of this was done without the use of parachute packs or tethering. Oh, we had chutes with us but they were up in the plane somewhere. Our pilots considered hand signals safer instead of fumbling for a button to turn on a signal light while flying at 300 feet altitude which we did when the terrain was level enough to do so. After dumping a load we would set to work making another stack while we circled with the other planes. When empty we would head for home for a second, and sometimes a third cargo load. According to my records our flying schedule was four days on and one day off. I logged 9 hrs. 45 min. my first day. That first month I logged over 100 hours thus earning my first Air Medal.

My last flight was on 5 June 1945 because the Japanese had been pushed so far south the fighting was getting out of our range. We were soon moved down the Ledo Road to Myitkyina (Mish'-in-aw) and I spent the remainder of the war loading drums of aviation fuel on C-46s to fly the hump and unloading the Chinese casualties that were being brought back. At Myitkyina we built an enlisted men's club and because I didn't drink I was appointed manager and bartender and continued on 50% base pay. It was also there that an eye injury put me in the local hospital for a few days and there, too, that I contracted malaria. I was just up from malaria good when, after 14 months overseas, my 67 points won me a voyage home aboard the USS General Balleau out of Karachi and through the Mediterranean. We docked in New York City harbor at 10 AM, 1 January 1946. Then from Camp Kilmer, NJ to Camp Blanding FL and home in Jacksonville 7 days later. What a trip! What a ride!

Looking back I have often wondered a big "Why" about the First Air Cargo Resupply Squadron? Not that I have any regrets whatsoever. We were a sure and confident organization and operated with pride but why were we activated in the first place with three Combat Cargo Groups already deployed in the CBI? And each with four squadrons of 25 planes. Why were we a single, self contained, so to speak, squadron? What was the significance of being the FIRST Air Cargo Resupply Squadron when we could have been sent over as a supplement or addition to an already active unit? We did our job and did it well but I have no illusions of our outfit turning the tide against the Japanese. I guess it just took a lot of ants to build the ant hill.

As to the after-life of of a WWII draftee? I spent 35 years in the US Postal Service retireing in 1965 at 60. During that time I found my sweetheart at a square-dance, married in October, 1959 and have been so happy that it is easy for me to believe that the good Lord has been looking out for me every step of the way. I pray that He will watch over you and yours in the very same way. God Bless You All, and God Bless America.


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