The steel in their eyes belies the gray in their hair. The five men sit back with veteran comfort as the questions fly. They are quick to joke and matter-of-fact with tales that leave their audience in awe.
They have been in front of the notebooks and cameras before, again and again. It’s nothing. These guys have been over the Hump.
The U.S. Air Force “Hump Pilots” were the cargo plane lifeline for soldiers in western China battling the Japanese in World War II, lugging 10,000-pound loads of gasoline, food, supplies, ammunition, bombs and the like on 700-mile missions over some of the most treacherous terrain on earth.
The Hump was the name they gave a half-century ago to the jagged, white-capped peaks of the forbidding Himalaya Mountains, a range considered virtually impassable by air not so many years before they flew it. You simply had to go too high too long. Motors turned to mush, the gas gave out and the air was too thin to breathe.
Their gathering today was poignant. The group was at Magnolia Plantation for what might be the last in a series of annual reunions unbroken since 1946. They are in their late 80s or early 90s, old enough that the reunion organizer was too ill to do it anymore and they talked ahead of time about calling it quits.
But Bill Thomas, 91, of Charleston, said, let’s fly. One more go-round.
Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.