Flying the Hump

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FLYING THE HUMP. American officials in 1941 saw a vital need to keep China in World War II, yet Japan's early conquests had cut off all land routes to China. Only one air route, a very dangerous flight from airfields in eastern Assam across the High Himalayas to K'unming in China's Yunnan province, remained open. The five-hundred-mile route posed several dangers for planes of the period. It required flying at very high altitudes, adding to the dangers of violent turbulence and severe icing the dangers of enemy aircraft and frequent monsoons, which pilots encountered at any altitude. Yet, through nearly three years of war, the U.S. Army Air Forces Air Transport Command used this route as the sole means for transporting supplies and passengers to China. Begun in 1942, the airlift delivered a total of 650,000 tons, with a monthly maximum of 71,042 tons reached in July 1945. The Hump was the proving ground of massive strategic airlift, demonstrating that large amounts of material could be delivered by air and presaging the Berlin airlift of 1948–49 and emergency deliveries to Korea in 1950.


Craven, Wesley F., and James L. Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Volume 2. 1949. Reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Ford, Daniel. Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

WarnerStark/t. d.

See alsoWorld War II, Air War against Japan .