Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened November, 1989
September 19, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
Topics discussed include the building of airfields in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II; operations over the "Hump" to China; the Ledo road; the Flying Tigers; the bombing of Tokyo; the Marshall mission to China; Soviet dismantling in Manchuria; the Berlin airlift; postwar occupation of Austria and Germany; the issue of German unification; German rearmament; the Plevin Plan; the Schuman Plan; French-German relations; European economic integration; China and the Korea war; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; U.S.-German relations; Zionism; Arab-Israeli relations; U.S. policy toward the Middle East; U.S. policy toward Iran; oil nationalization in Iran; U.S.-Egyptian relations; Suez crisis; apartheid in South Africa; U.S.-Afghanistani relations; U.S.-Burmese relations; U.S.-Filippino relations; and U.S.-Pakistani relations.
Names mentioned include Generals Caleb V. Haynes, Raymond A. Wheeler, Edward Alexander, Albert C. Wedemeyer, Claire Chennault, Joseph W. Stilwell, Curtis LeMay, Ed Hull, George C. Marshall, Clayton Bissell, Thomas Timberman, Lucius Clay, William Draper, and Omar Bradley, Chou En-lai, Mao Tse-Tung, Walter Robertson, Chiang Kai-shek, John Davies, John J. McCloy, Til Durdin, Charles Bohlen, Kenneth Royall, Dean Acheson, Robert Murphy, Tom Connally, James Webb, Harry S. Truman, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Douglas Mac Arthur II, Theodore Achilles, Alfred Gruenther, Kurt Schumacher, Perry Laukhuff, Edwin Locke, Edwin Wright, Nathan Goldman, Sam Kramer, Abe Finnan, Loy Henderson, John Foster Dulles, Ben-Gurion, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mohammed Mossadegh, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Herbert Hoover, Jr., Ali Bhutto, Gam al Abdul Nasser, Abba Eban, Mohammed Daud, Ne Win, Dean Rusk, Lyndon Johnson, Ferdinand Marcos, and Benigno Aquino.
Donor: Henry Byroade
JOHNSON: Would you begin by telling me when and where you were born, and what your parents' names are?
BYROADE: I was born in Maumee Township in Indiana in 1913, the son of Ernest C. and Carrie Byroade. We lived on a farm. It was Depression days. I couldn't afford to go to college. I tried for a scholarship at Yale and missed it by a tenth of one percent, which I've always been grateful for. Then I managed to get an appointment, competitive appointment, to West Point. I went there and graduated in the class of 1937.
JOHNSON: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
BYROADE: I had one brother, who unfortunately drowned in a boating accident when he was about 45 years old. My
sister died when she was about 55 years old, of cancer.
JOHNSON: You had one brother and one . . .
BYROADE: One brother and one sister, yes.
JOHNSON: Do you have any children?
BYROADE: I have three boys from a previous marriage.
JOHNSON: What are their names?
BYROADE: Alan, who lives here is in Washington and works for the GAO; John who is running his own environmental firm here in Washington; and Gene, the oldest, is in Jacksonville, Florida, where he's a civilian with the Naval Department. I have one daughter, from my present marriage, who is now 23. She just graduated from the University of Maryland and she's under management training at Garfinkel's here in Washington.
JOHNSON: And your wife's name?
BYROADE: My wife's name is Jitka, but pronounced Yitka, as though it were a Y. It's a Czech name; she was of Czech nationality.
JOHNSON: So you went to West Point in about '34?
BYROADE: In '33.
JOHNSON: And got your commission . . .
BYROADE: Second Lieutenant, and bachelor of science, from West Point in 1937. Then I went to the Hawaiian Islands as my first post. I was there from '37 to '39. Since I was in the Corps of Engineers, the Corps sent me--as they do all of their young officers--back here to engineering college. I got my master's degree in civil engineering at Cornell in 1940. I was then stationed at Langley Field, Virginia, helping to form the first aviation engineer regiment. I was there at the time of Pearl Harbor.
JOHNSON: After Pearl Harbor, what happened?
BYROADE: Although I was a very junior officer, I was in command of a battalion. The next morning, after Pearl Harbor, I was told to take my battalion to Mitchell-Field, Long Island, and help convert that into a wartime base. It was unbelievable, looking back on it; there was a great scare along the East Coast that something was
going to happen. We built revetments for the aircraft, slit trenches, and that sort of thing.
JOHNSON: They thought German submarines were going to launch commandos onto Long Island?
BYROADE: Apparently, that's what the brass thought. I was only there about three months. I was called to Washington in the middle of the night, and they said, "Come right now, tonight." I got there after midnight and was told to go wake up [Brigadier] General [Stuart C.] Godfrey; he told me that I was going to go on a very unusual mission to Asia. I could pick any thirteen men in the Army that didn't rank me-- I was only a captain--and they were going to give me $10 million to start with to do whatever I was supposed to do. I was to report to General [Caleb V.] Haynes in Washington, and that's all he knew. He didn't know where we were going.
The next morning I found General Haynes and it was being kept secret, but it was obvious in a few hours that we were on a bomb Tokyo mission. It explains really the degree of chaos there was in Washington right after Pearl Harbor. Now, we were supposed to take
seventeen B-17s and about thirty DC-3s, which right after Pearl Harbor was a sizeable force. We were going through South America, Natal, across to Roberts Field in Africa. Ascension Islands at that time had no airfield. It was a perilous flight. It was thirty-three hours in the DC-3s, non-stop, of course.
My first job was to take out the bucket seats in the DC-3s and lash ordinary 50 gallon gas drums in their place. We lost about eight or nine [of the DC-3s]. We lost three of our B-17s, but the rest of us made it across.
JOHNSON: You mean they were lost over the ocean, over the jungle, or . . .
BYROADE: Over the ocean.
Now, we went on through Africa and arrived in Karachi [India]. There was chaos and confusion; we were going to hit Tokyo from just south of Shanghai, but it took us about three months in Florida to get organized, and underway, and by the time we got to Karachi, the Japanese had that area. The second plan was to use the Northern Philippines, but that was gone too. I was left in Karachi. General Brereton came in from Java, and he
outranked our General. He took all the bombers away from us. We were left with the DC-3s and they said, "Go start a Hump run to China."
So I was on the first DC-3 that went up to Assam, India.
JOHNSON: Where were you stationed at this time?
BYROADE: Well, I was around Karachi, trying to decide now to get in the war. My orders were to report to the senior aviation engineer in the China-Burma-India theater. The people that wrote the order knew that I was it, that I was the only one. I was picked up by General Wheeler.
JOHNSON: What was his first name?
BYROADE: Raymond A. Wheeler; he was head of the Service of Supply Command in CBI; it then consisted of General Wheeler, an aide, and a secretary.
JOHNSON: What was your rank at this time?
BYROADE: Either a captain or a major, I'm not sure. I guess I had been promoted to major. We got up to
Assam, India; Dinjan had half of one runway. The job was to build however many airfields it took to transport lend-lease supplies to China. There were lots of river boats there, full of lend-lease for China that had been in Rangoon. They thought that was going to fall, so they sent it all to Calcutta, and they thought that was going to fall, so they just sent it up the Brahmaputra River, as far as they could go, up towards Assam, waiting for us to get airfields, and airplanes to fly it across the Hump [Himalaya Mountains].
Am I going into too much detail?
JOHNSON: No, that's fine.
BYROADE: Well, we had to work through the British, of course. I was the American in charge of not only supplying our own forces, but building airfields and handling the air freight. We used a lot of labor, Indian coolies, breaking rocks by hand. We were to build, I think, seven freight fields, and three or four fighter fields for protection. Well, when I got there, there were two Pan-Am planes running the Hump, and two pilots; one was in bed with malaria and the other one was in the hospital. They had had a fight over some girls.
At that time that was the Hump run to China. So we started from absolutely nothing, and none of us had any idea that that would build up to a couple hundred thousand tons a month.
JOHNSON: Do you recall about when that started, that operation?
BYROADE: Well, we left Florida, I think, in March. I was around Karachi a couple months. It would be the middle of the summer in '42, July or August.
JOHNSON: Now, the raid on Tokyo, I believe, came in the spring of '42.
BYROADE: You're talking about Doolittle.
BYROADE: Well, we had just passed the point of no return in the Atlantic. I remember the navigator on the loudspeaker said, "We have now passed the point of no return," which means it was more dangerous to go back than it was to go on. Then he also announced that Doolittle had hit Tokyo. And we were rather chagrined.
JOHNSON: That was April I think.
BYROADE: I think so. We were rather chagrined. We wanted to do that, but he beat us to it. To digress, it wasn't for almost three years, I think, that I got back to my original mission which was to build the fields to bomb Tokyo. I did that up at Chengtu for the B-29s, but we can get back to that.
JOHNSON: On the other side of the Hump in China.
BYROADE: Yes. The Hump run was a tremendous feat because, where the Japs were then, we had to go over the northern part of the Himalayas, which were quite high. Well, we had every problem in the book.. You didn't have good communications equipment; we didn't have enough spare parts; we didn't really have good enough airfields, but that wasn't the bottleneck.. The DC-3s won't carry very much. We finally got the C-46, which was a lot bigger, but it had just rolled off the production line, and it was all full of bugs and we lost dozens of them going across the Hump.
JOHNSON: That was still a two-engine plane?
BYROADE: A two-engine, yes. It got so bad we wouldn't allow any people, any passengers, to go on these freight runs. Finally, of course, they got the bugs out of the C-46.
JOHNSON: But there was no way to bail out of them, was there?
BYROADE: It was possible to bail out but we still lost a lot of people. And then we got C-54s, and the tonnage started to mount. By then we had not only the left-over China defense supplies that we'd picked up when we arrived, but streams of new material, which mostly came across India by rail, or again, by river from Calcutta.
JOHNSON: While I'm thinking about it, you got involved in the Berlin airlift too.
JOHNSON: Was there experience from the Hump that was used in the Berlin airlift, and were some of the same persons involved in that one?
BYROADE: Well, you asked for my favorite story in this world, and that's to point out that if we hadn't had the experience of the Hump run into China, I don't think we would have attempted to supply Berlin by air. If
we hadn't saved Berlin, my feeling is the whole map of Europe would be changed today. When we got into the Berlin situation, there were enough of us in Washington--now I still was only a colonel--but there were enough of us and some generals, who had gone through the Hump experience, that said, "Wait a minute, we'll supply Berlin by air." Everybody--almost everybody--said, "You're crazy; they need things like coal." We said, "So what, they need coal--we'll fly coal." From Frankfurt to Berlin was just a twenty-minute milk run compared to the hazardous Hump run.
JOHNSON: There were no mountains in between either. You flew coal over the Hump?
BYROADE: Yes, of course, we flew coal and all kinds of necessary consumer items. I think, I really think, we would have probably lost Berlin, except for supplying the city by air. So that may be the greatest contribution that came out of the whole thing, because keeping China in the war didn't in the end accomplish very much, on the Hump run.
JOHNSON: Who were some of the other persons that were involved that were closely involved with the Hump, the
airlift, besides yourself? Could you name maybe even just two or three of these individuals?
BYROADE: Well, General [Edward] Alexander was in charge of the aircraft. I had been transferred from the Air Corps; I was then commanding Advance Section No. 2 of the Services of Supply, which was from Calcutta to Darjeeling and across the Burma border. We were the only two commanders there in the beginning.
JOHNSON: But you're saying that some of the same personnel that were involved with that airlift became involved with the Berlin airlift too?
BYROADE: Well, General [Alb